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[Pg v]


The Heart of Heloïse 3
German Considerations: Walther von der Vogelweide 28
Scriptural Allegories in the Early Middle Ages; Honorius of Autun 41
The Rationale of the Visible World: Hugo of St. Victor 60
 [Pg vi]
Cathedral and Mass; Hymn and Imaginative Poem 76
I. Guilelmus Durandus and Vincent of Beauvais.
II. The Hymns of Adam of St. Victor and the Anticlaudianus of Alanus of Lille.
The Spell of the Classics 107
I. Classical Reading.
II. Grammar.
III. The Effect upon the Mediaeval Man; Hildebert of Lavardin.
Evolution of Mediaeval Latin Prose 148
Evolution of Mediaeval Latin Verse 186
I. Metrical Verse.
II. Substitution of Accent for Quantity.
III. Sequence-Hymn and Student-Song.
IV. Passage of Themes into the Vernacular.
 [Pg vii]
Mediaeval Appropriation of the Roman Law 231
I. The Fontes Juris Civilis.
II. Roman and Barbarian Codification.
III. The Mediaeval Appropriation.
IV. Church Law.
V. Political Theorizing.
Scholasticism: Spirit, Scope, and Method 283
Classification of Topics; Stages of Evolution 311
I. Philosophic Classification of the Sciences; the Arrangement of Vincent’s
Encyclopaedia, of the Lombard’s Sentences, of Aquinas’s Summa theologiae.
II. The Stages of Development: Grammar, Logic, Metalogics.
Twelfth-Century Scholasticism 338
I. The Problem of Universals: Abaelard.
II. The Mystic Strain: Hugo and Bernard.
III. The Later Decades: Bernard Silvestris; Gilbert de la Porrée; William of Conches;
John of Salisbury, and Alanus of Lille.
 [Pg viii]
The Universities, Aristotle, and the Mendicants 378
Bonaventura 402
Albertus Magnus 420
Thomas Aquinas 433
I. Thomas’s Conception of Human Beatitude.
II. Man’s Capacity to know God.
III. How God knows.
IV. How the Angels know.
V. How Men know.
VI. Knowledge through Faith perfected in Love.
Roger Bacon 484
Duns Scotus and Occam 509
The Mediaeval Synthesis: Dante 525



[Pg 1]



[Pg 2]


[Pg 3]



The romantic growth and imaginative shaping of chivalric love having been followed in the fortunes of its great exemplars, Tristan, Iseult, Lancelot, Guinevere, Parzival, a different illustration of mediaeval passion may be had by turning from these creations of literature to an actual woman, whose love for a living man was thought out as keenly and as tragically felt as any heart-break of imagined lovers, and was impressed with as entire a self-surrender as ever ravished the soul of nun panting with love of the God-man.

There has never been a passion between a man and woman more famous than that which brought happiness and sorrow to the lives of Abaelard and Heloïse. Here fame is just. It was a great love, and its course was a perfect soul’s tragedy. Abaelard was a celebrity, the intellectual glory of an active-minded epoch. His love-story has done as much for his posthumous fame as all his intellectual activities. Heloïse became known in her time through her relations with Abaelard; in his songs her name was wafted far. She has come down to us as one of the world’s love-heroines. Yet few of those who have been touched by her story have known that Heloïse was a great woman, possessed of an admirable mind, a character which proved its strength through years, and, above all, a capacity for loving—for loving out to the full conclusions of love’s convictions, and for feeling in their full range and power whatever moods and emotions could arise from an unhappy situation and a passion as deeply felt as it was deeply thought upon.

[Pg 4]Abaelard was not a great character—aside from his intellect. He was vain and inconsiderate, a man who delighted in confounding and supplanting his teachers, and in being a thorn in the flesh of all opponents. But he became chastened through his misfortunes and through Heloïse’s high and self-sacrificing love. In the end, perhaps, his love was worthy of the love of Heloïse. Yet her love from the beginning was nobler and deeper than his love of her. Love was for him an incident in his experience, then an element in his life. Love made the life of Heloïse; it remained her all. Moreover, in the records of their passion, Heloïse’s love is unveiled as Abaelard’s is not. For all these reasons, the heart of Heloïse rather than the heart of Abaelard discloses the greatness of a love that wept itself out in the twelfth century, and it is her love rather than his that can teach us much regarding the mediaeval capacity for loving. Hers is a story of mediaeval womanhood, and sin, and repentance perhaps, with peace at last, or at least the lips shut close and further protest foregone.

Abaelard’s stormy intellectual career[1] and the story of the love between him and the canon’s niece are well known. Let us follow him in those parts of his narrative which disclose the depth and power of Heloïse’s love for him. We draw from his Historia calamitatum, written “to a friend,” apparently an open letter intended to circulate.

“There was,” writes he, referring to the time of his sojourn in Paris, when he was about thirty-six years old, and at the height of his fame as a lecturer in the schools—

“There was in Paris a young girl named Heloïse, the niece of a canon, Fulbert. It was his affectionate wish that she should have the best education in letters that could be procured. Her face was not unfair, and her knowledge was unequalled. This attainment, so rare in women, had given her great reputation.

“I had hitherto lived continently, but now was casting my eyes about, and I saw that she possessed every attraction that lovers seek; nor did I regard my success as doubtful, when I considered my fame and my goodly person, and also her love of letters. Inflamed with love, I thought how I could best become intimate with her. It occurred to me to obtain lodgings with her uncle, on[Pg 5] the plea that household cares distracted me from study. Friends quickly brought this about, the old man being miserly and yet desirous of instruction for his niece. He eagerly entrusted her to my tutorship, and begged me to give her all the time I could take from my lectures, authorizing me to see her at any hour of the day or night, and punish her when necessary. I marvelled with what simplicity he confided a tender lamb to a hungry wolf. As he had given me authority to punish her, I saw that if caresses would not win my object, I could bend her by threats and blows. Doubtless he was misled by love of his niece and my own good reputation. Well, what need to say more: we were united first by the one roof above us, and then by our hearts. Our hours of study were given to love. The books lay open, but our words were of love rather than philosophy, there were more kisses than aphorisms; and love was oftener reflected in our eyes than the lettered page. To avert suspicion, I struck her occasionally—very gentle blows of love. The joy of love, new to us both, brought no satiety. The more I was taken up with this pleasure, the less time I gave to philosophy and the schools—how tiresome had all that become! I became unproductive, merely repeating my old lectures, and if I composed any verses, love was their subject, and not the secrets of philosophy; you know how popular and widely sung these have become. But the students! what groans and laments arose from them at my distraction! A passion so plain was not to be concealed; every one knew of it except Fulbert. A man is often the last to know of his own shame. Yet what everybody knows cannot be hid forever, and so after some months he learned all. Oh how bitter was that uncle’s grief! and what was the grief of the separated lovers! How ashamed I was, and afflicted at the affliction of the girl! And what a storm of sorrow came over her at my disgrace. Neither complained for himself, but each grieved at what the other must endure.”

Although Abaelard was moved at the plight of Heloïse, he bitterly felt his own discomfiture in the eyes of the once admiring world. But the sentence touching Heloïse is a first true note of her devoted love: what a storm of sorrow (moeroris aestus) came over her at my disgrace. Through this trouble and woe, Heloïse never thought of her own pain save as it pained her to be the source of grief to Abaelard.

Abaelard continues:

“The separation of our bodies joined our souls more closely and inflamed our love. Shame spent itself and made us unashamed, so small a thing it seemed compared with satisfying love. Not long[Pg 6] afterwards the girl knew that she was to be a mother, and in the greatest exultation wrote and asked me to advise what she should do. One night, as we agreed on, when Fulbert was away I bore her off secretly and sent her to my own country, Brittany, where she stayed with my sister till she gave birth to a son, whom she named Astralabius.

“The uncle, on his return to his empty house, was frantic. He did not know what to do to me. If he should kill or do me some bodily injury, he feared lest his niece, whom he loved, would suffer for it among my people in Brittany. He could not seize me, as I was prepared against all attempts. At length, pitying his anguish, and feeling remorse at having caused it, I went to him as a suppliant and promised whatever satisfaction he should demand. I assured him that nothing in my conduct would seem remarkable to any one who had felt the strength of love or would take the pains to recall how many of the greatest men had been thrown down by women, ever since the world began. Whereupon I offered him a satisfaction greater than he could have hoped, to wit, that I would marry her whom I had corrupted, if only the marriage might be kept secret so that it should not injure me in the minds of men. He agreed and pledged his faith, and the faith of his friends, and sealed with kisses the reconciliation which I had sought—so that he might more easily betray me!”

It will be remembered that Abaelard was a clerk, a clericus, in virtue of his profession of letters and theology. Never having taken orders, he could marry; but while a clerk’s slip could be forgotten, marriage might lead people to think he had slighted his vocation, and would certainly bar the ecclesiastical preferment which such a famous clericus might naturally look forward to. Nevertheless, he at once set out to fetch Heloïse from Brittany, to make her his wife.

The stand which she now took shows both her mind and heart:

“She strongly disapproved, and urged two reasons against the marriage, to wit, the danger and the disgrace in which it would involve me. She swore—and so it proved—that no satisfaction would ever appease her uncle. She asked how she was to have any glory through me when she should have made me inglorious, and should have humiliated both herself and me. What penalties would the world exact from her if she deprived it of such a luminary; what curses, what damage to the Church, what lamentations of philosophers, would follow on this marriage. How indecent, how lamentable would it be for a man whom nature had made for all, to declare that he belonged to one woman, and subject himself to such[Pg 7] shame. From her soul, she detested this marriage which would be so utterly ignominious for me, and a burden to me. She expatiated on the disgrace and inconvenience of matrimony for me and quoted the Apostle Paul exhorting men to shun it. If I would not take the apostle’s advice or listen to what the saints had said regarding the matrimonial yoke, I should at least pay attention to the philosophers—to Theophrastus’s words upon the intolerable evils of marriage, and to the refusal of Cicero to take a wife after he had divorced Terentia, when he said that he could not devote himself to a wife and philosophy at the same time. ‘Or,’ she continued, laying aside the disaccord between study and a wife, ‘consider what a married man’s establishment would be to you. What sweet accord there would be between the schools and domestics, between copyists and cradles, between books and distaffs, between pen and spindle! Who, engaged in religious or philosophical meditations, could endure a baby’s crying and the nurse’s ditties stilling it, and all the noise of servants? Could you put up with the dirty ways of children? The rich can, you say, with their palaces and apartments of all kinds; their wealth does not feel the expense or the daily care and annoyance. But I say, the state of the rich is not that of philosophers; nor have men entangled in riches and affairs any time for the study of Scripture or philosophy. The renowned philosophers of old, despising the world, fleeing rather than relinquishing it, forbade themselves all pleasures, and reposed in the embraces of philosophy.’”

Speaking thus, Heloïse fortified her argument with quotations from Seneca, and the examples of Jewish and Gentile worthies and Christian saints, and continued:

“It is not for me to point out—for I would not be thought to instruct Minerva—how soberly and continently all these men lived who, according to Augustine and others, were called philosophers as much for their way of life as or their knowledge. If laymen and Gentiles, bound by no profession of religion, lived thus, surely you, a clerk and canon, should not prefer low pleasures to sacred duties, nor let yourself be sucked down by this Charybdis and smothered in filth inextricably. If you do not value the privilege of a clerk, at least defend the dignity of a philosopher. If reverence for God be despised, still let love of decency temper immodesty. Remember, Socrates was tied to a wife, and through a nasty accident wiped out this blot upon philosophy, that others afterwards might be more cautious; which Jerome relates in his book against Jovinianus, how once when enduring a storm of Xanthippe’s clamours from the floor above, he was ducked with slops, and simply said, ‘I knew such thunder would bring rain.’

[Pg 8]“Finally she said that it would be dangerous for me to take her back to Paris; it was more becoming to me, and sweeter to her, to be called my mistress, so that affection alone might keep me hers and not the binding power of any matrimonial chain; and if we should be separated for a time, our joys at meeting would be the dearer for their rarity. When at last with all her persuasions and dissuasions she could not turn me from my folly, and could not bear to offend me, with a burst of tears she ended in these words: ‘One thing is left: in the ruin of us both the grief which follows shall not be less than the love which went before.’ Nor did she here lack the spirit of prophecy.”

Heloïse’s reasonings show love great and true and her absolute devotion to Abaelard’s interests. None the less striking is her clear intelligence. She reasoned correctly; she was right, the marriage would do great harm to Abaelard and little good to her. We see this too, if we lay aside our sense of the ennobling purity of marriage—a sentiment not commonly felt in the twelfth century. Marriage was holy in the mind of Christ. But it did not preserve its holiness through the centuries which saw the rise of monasticism and priestly celibacy. A way of life is not pure and holy when another way is holier and purer; this is peculiarly true in Christianity, which demands the ideal best with such intensity as to cast reflection on whatever falls below the highest standard. From the time of the barbarian inroads, on through the Carolingian periods, and into the later Middle Ages, there was enough barbarism and brutality to prevent the preservation, or impede the development, of a high standard of marriage. Not monasticism, but his own half-barbarian, lustful heart led Charlemagne to marry and remarry at will, and have many mistresses besides. It was the same with the countless barons and mediaeval kings, rude and half civilized. This was barbarous lust, not due to the influence of monasticism. But, on the other hand, it was always the virgin or celibate state that the Church held before the eyes of all this semi-barbarous laity as the ideal for a Christian man or woman. The Church sanctioned marriage, but hardly lauded it or held it up as a condition in which lives of holiness and purity could be led. Such were the sentiments in which Heloïse was born and bred. They were subconscious factors in her thoughts regarding[Pg 9] herself and her lover. Devoted and unselfish was her love; undoubtedly Heloïse would have sacrificed herself for Abaelard under any social conditions. Nevertheless, with her, marriage added little to love; it was a mere formal and binding authorization; love was no purer for it. To her mind, for a man in Abaelard’s situation to be entangled in a temporary amour was better than to be chained to his passion, with his career irrevocably ruined, in marriage. In so far as her thoughts or Abaelard’s were influenced by the environment of priestly thinking, marriage would seem a rendering permanent of a passionate and sinful state, which it were best to cast off altogether. For herself, as she said truly, the marriage would bring obloquy rather than reinstatement. She had been mistress to a clerk; marriage would make her the partner of his abandonment of his vocation, the accomplice of broken purposes if not of broken vows. And finally, as there was then no line of disgrace as now between bastard and lawful issue, Heloïse had no thought that the interests of her son demanded that his mother should become his father’s wife.

“Leaving our son in my sister’s care, we stole back to Paris, and shortly after, having in the night celebrated our vigils in a certain church, we were married at dawn in the presence of her uncle and some of his and our friends. We left at once separately and with secrecy, and afterwards saw each other only in privacy, so as to conceal what we had done. But her uncle and his household began at once to announce the marriage and violate his word; while she, on the contrary, protested vehemently and swore that it was false. At that he became enraged and treated her vilely. When I discovered this I sent her to the convent of Argenteuil, near Paris, where she had been educated. There I had her take the garb of a nun, except the veil. Hearing this, the uncle and his relations thought that I had duped them, ridding myself of Heloïse by making her a nun. So having bribed my servant, they came upon me by night, when I was sleeping, and took on me a vengeance as cruel and irretrievable as it was vile and shameful. Two of the perpetrators were pursued and vengeance taken.

“In the morning the whole town was assembled, crying and lamenting my plight, especially the clerks and students; at which I was afflicted with more shame than I suffered physical pain. I thought of my ruined hopes and glory, and then saw that by God’s just judgment I was punished where I had most sinned, and that[Pg 10] Fulbert had justly avenged treachery with treachery. But what a figure I should cut in public! how the world would point its finger at me! I was also confounded at the thought of the Levitical law, according to which I had become an abomination to the Church.[2] In this misery the confusion of shame—I confess it—rather than the ardour of conversion drove me to the cover of the cloister, after she had willingly obeyed my command to take the veil. I became a monk in the abbey of St. Denis, and she a nun in the convent of Argenteuil. Many begged her not to set that yoke upon her youth; at which, amid her tears, she broke out in Cornelia’s lament: ‘O great husband! undeserving of my couch! Has fortune rights over a head so high? Why did I, impious, marry thee to make thee wretched? Accept these penalties, which I gladly pay.’[3] With these words, she went straight to the altar, received the veil blessed by the bishop, and took the vows before them all.”

Abaelard’s Historia calamitatum now turns to troubles having no connection with Heloïse: his difficulties with the monks of St. Denis, with other monks, with every one, in fact, except his scholars; his arraignment before the Council of Soissons, the public burning of his book, De Unitate et Trinitate divina, and various other troubles, till, seeking a retreat, he constructed an oratory on the bank of the Ardisson. He named it the Paraclete, and there he taught and lectured. He was afterwards elected abbot of a monastery in Brittany, where he discovered that those under him were savage beasts rather than monks. Here the Historia calamitatum was written.

The monks of St. Denis had never ceased to hate Abaelard for his assertion that their great Saint was not really Dionysius the Areopagite who heard Paul preach. Their abbot now brought forward and proved an ancient title to the land where stood the convent of Argenteuil, “in which,” to resume Abaelard’s account,

“she, once my wife, now my sister in Christ, had taken the veil, and was at this time prioress. The nuns were rudely driven out. News of this came to me as a suggestion from the Lord to bethink me of the deserted Paraclete. Going thither, I invited Heloïse and her nuns to come and take possession. They accepted, and I gave it to them. Afterward Pope Innocent II. confirmed this grant to them and their successors in perpetuity. There for a time they[Pg 11] lived in want; but soon the Divine Pity showed itself the true Paraclete, and moved the people of the neighbourhood to take compassion on them, and they soon knew no lack. Indeed as women are the weaker sex, their need moves men more readily to pity, and their virtues are the more grateful to both God and man. And on our sister the Lord bestowed such favour in the eyes of all, that the bishops loved her as a daughter, the abbots as a sister, the laity as a mother; and all wondered at her piety, her wisdom, and her gentle patience in everything. She rarely let herself be seen, that she might devote herself more wholly to prayers and meditations in her cell; but all the more persistently people sought her spiritual counsel.”

What were those meditations and those prayers uttered or unuttered in that cell? They did not always refer to the kingdom of heaven, judging from the abbess’s first letter to her former lover. After the installation of Heloïse and her nuns, Abaelard rarely visited the Paraclete, although his advice and instruction was desired there. His visits gave rise to too much scandal. In the course of time, however, the Historia calamitatum came into the hands of Heloïse, and occasioned this letter, which seems to issue forth out of a long silence; ten years had passed since she became a nun. The superscription is as follows:

“To her master, rather to a father, to her husband, rather to a brother, his maid or rather daughter, his wife or rather sister, to Abaelard, Heloïse.

“Your letter, beloved, written to comfort a friend, chanced recently to reach me. Seeing by its first lines from whom it was, I burned to read it for the love I bear the writer, hoping also from its words to recreate an image of him whose life I have ruined. Those words dropped gall and absinthe as they brought back the unhappy story of our intercourse and thy ceaseless crosses, O my only one. Truly the letter must have convinced the friend that his troubles were light compared with yours, as you showed the treachery and persecutions which had followed you, the calumnies of enemies and the burning of your glorious book, the machinations of false brothers, and the vile acts of those worthless monks whom you call your sons. No one could read it with dry eyes. Your perils have renewed my griefs; here we all despair of your life and each day with trembling hearts expect news of your death. In the name of Christ, who so far has somehow preserved thee for himself, deign with frequent letters to let these weak servants of Him and thee know of the storms overwhelming the swimmer, so that we who[Pg 12] alone remain to thee may be participators of thy pain or joy. One who grieves may gain consolation from those grieving with him; a burden borne by many is more lightly borne. And if this tempest abates, how happy shall we be to know it. Whatever the letters may contain they will show at least that we are not forgotten. Has not Seneca said in his letter to Lucilius, that the letters of an absent friend are sweet? When no malice can stop your giving us this much of you, do not let neglect prove a bar.

“You have written that long letter to console a friend with the story of your own misfortunes, and have thereby roused our grief and added to our desolation. Heal these new wounds. You owe to us a deeper debt of friendship than to him, for we are not only friends, but friends the dearest, and your daughters. After God, you alone are the founder of this place, the builder of this oratory and of this congregation. This new plantation for a holy purpose is your own; the delicate plants need frequent watering. He who gives so much to his enemies, should consider his daughters. Or, leaving out the others here, think how this is owing me from thee: what thou owest to all women under vows, thou shalt pay more devotedly to thine only one. How many books have the holy fathers written for holy women, for their exhortation and instruction! I marvel at thy forgetfulness of these frail beginnings of our conversion. Neither respect of God nor love of us nor the example of the blessed fathers, has led thee by speech or letter to console me, cast about, and consumed with grief. This obligation was the stronger, because the sacrament of marriage joined thee to me, and I—every one sees it—cling to thee with unmeasured love.

“Dearest, thou knowest—who knows not?—how much I lost in thee, and that an infamous act of treachery robbed me of thee and of myself at once. The greater my grief, the greater need of consolation, not from another but from thee, that thou who art alone my cause of grief may be alone my consolation. It is thou alone that canst sadden me or gladden me or comfort me. And thou alone owest this to me, especially since I have done thy will so utterly that, unable to offend thee, I endured to wreck myself at thy command. Nay, more than this, love turned to madness and cut itself off from hope of that which alone it sought, when I obediently changed my garb and my heart too in order that I might prove thee sole owner of my body as well as of my spirit. God knows, I have ever sought in thee only thyself, desiring simply thee and not what was thine. I asked no matrimonial contract, I looked for no dowry; not my pleasure, not my will, but thine have I striven to fulfil. And if the name of wife seemed holier or more potent, the word mistress (amica) was always sweeter to me, or even—be not angry!—concubine or harlot; for the more I lowered myself before thee, the more I hoped to gain thy favour, and the less I[Pg 13] should hurt the glory of thy renown. This thou didst graciously remember, when condescending to point out in that letter to a friend some of the reasons (but not all!) why I preferred love to wedlock and liberty to a chain. I call God to witness that if Augustus, the master of the world, would honour me with marriage and invest me with equal rule, it would still seem to me dearer and more honourable to be called thy strumpet than his empress. He who is rich and powerful is not the better man: that is a matter of fortune, this of merit. And she is venal who marries a rich man sooner than a poor man, and yearns for a husband’s riches rather than himself. Such a woman deserves pay and not affection. She is not seeking the man but his goods, and would wish, if possible, to prostitute herself to one still richer. Aspasia put this clearly when she was trying to effect a reconciliation between Xenophon and his wife: ‘Until you come to think that there is nowhere else a better man or a woman more desirable, you will be continually looking for what you think to be the best, and will wish to be married to the man or woman who is the very best.’ This is indeed a holy, rather than a philosophical sentiment, and wisdom, not philosophy, speaks. This is the holy error and blessed deception between man and wife, when affection perfect and unimpaired keeps marriage inviolate not so much by continency of body as by chastity of mind. But what with other women is an error, is, in my case, the manifest truth: since what they suppose in their husbands, I—and the whole world agrees—know to be in thee. My love for thee is truth, being free from all error. Who among kings or philosophers can vie with your fame? What country, what city does not thirst to see you? Who, I ask, did not hurry to see you appearing in public and crane his neck to catch a last glimpse as you departed? What wife, what maid did not yearn for you absent, and burn when you were present? What queen did not envy me my joys and couch? There were in you two qualities by which you could draw the soul of any woman, the gift of poetry and the gift of singing, gifts which other philosophers have lacked. As a distraction from labour, you composed love-songs both in metre and in rhyme, which for their sweet sentiment and music have been sung and resung and have kept your name in every mouth. Your sweet melodies do not permit even the illiterate to forget you. Because of these gifts women sighed for your love. And, as these songs sung of our loves, they quickly spread my name in many lands, and made me the envy of my sex. What excellence of mind or body did not adorn your youth? No woman, then envious, but now would pity me bereft of such delights. What enemy even would not now be softened by the compassion due me?

“I have brought thee evil, thou knowest how innocently. Not the result of the act but the disposition of the doer makes the[Pg 14] crime; justice does not consider what happens, but through what intent it happens. My intent towards thee thou only hast proved and alone canst judge. I commit everything to thy weighing and submit to thy decree.

“Tell me one thing: why, after our conversion, commanded by thee, did I drop into oblivion, to be no more refreshed by speech of thine or letter? Tell me, I say, if you can, or I will say what I feel and what every one suspects: desire rather than friendship drew you to me, lust rather than love. So when desire ceased, whatever you were manifesting for its sake likewise vanished. This, beloved, is not so much my opinion as the opinion of all. Would it were only mine and that thy love might find defenders to argue away my pain. Would that I could invent some reason to excuse you and also cover my cheapness. Listen, I beg, to what I ask, and it will seem small and very easy to you. Since I am cheated of your presence, at least put vows in words, of which you have a store, and so keep before me the sweetness of thine image. I shall vainly expect you to be bountiful in acts if I find you a miser in words. Truly I thought that I merited much from you, when I had done all for your sake and still continue in obedience. When little more than a girl I took the hard vows of a nun, not from piety but at your command. If I merit nothing from thee, how vain I deem my labour! I can expect no reward from God, as I have done nothing from love of Him. Thee hurrying to God I followed, or rather went before. For, as you remembered how Lot’s wife turned back, you first delivered me to God bound with the vow, and then yourself. That single act of distrust, I confess, grieved me and made me blush. God knows, at your command I would have followed or preceded you to fiery places. For my heart is not with me, but with thee; and now more than ever, if not with thee it is nowhere, for it cannot exist without thee. That my heart may be well with thee, see to it, I beg; and it will be well if it finds thee kind, rendering grace for grace—a little for much. Beloved, would that thy love were less sure of me so that it might be more solicitous; I have made you so secure that you are negligent. Remember all I have done and think what you owe. While I enjoyed carnal joy with you, many people were uncertain whether I acted from love or lust. Now the end makes clear the beginning; I have cut myself off from pleasure to obey thy will. I have kept nothing, save to be more than ever thine. Think how wicked it were in thee where all the more is due to render less, nothing almost; especially when little is asked, and that so easy for you. In the name of God to whom you have vowed yourself, give me that of thee which is possible, the consolation of a letter. I promise, thus refreshed, to serve God more readily. When of old you would call me to pleasures, you sought me with frequent letters, and never[Pg 15] failed with thy songs to keep thy Heloïse on every tongue; the streets, the houses re-echoed me. How much fitter that you should now incite me to God than then to lust? Bethink thee what thou owest; heed what I ask; and a long letter I will conclude with a brief ending: farewell only one!”

Remarks upon this letter would seem to profane a shrine—had the man profaned that shrine? He had not always worshipped there. Heloïse knew this, for all her love. She said it too, writing in phraseology which had been brutalized through the denouncing spirit of Latin monasticism. How truly she puts the situation and how clearly she thinks withal, discerning as it were the beautiful and true in love and marriage. The whole letter is well arranged, and written in a style showing the writer’s training in Latin mediaeval rhetoric. It was not the less deeply felt because composed with care and skill. Evidently the writer is of the Middle Ages; her occasional prolixity was not of her sex but of her time; and she quotes the ancients so naturally; what they say should be convincing. How the letter bares the motives of her own conduct: not for God’s sake, or the kingdom of heaven’s sake, but for Abaelard’s sake she became a nun. She had no inclination thereto; her letters do not indicate that she ever became really and spontaneously devoted to her calling. Abaelard was her God, and as her God she held him to the end; though she applied herself to the consideration of religious topics, as we shall see. Moreover, her position as nun and abbess could not fail to force such topics on her consideration.

Is there another such love-letter, setting forth a situation so triple-barred and hopeless? And the love which fills the letter, which throbs and burns in it, which speaks and argues in it, how absolute is this love. It is love carried out to its full conclusions; it includes the whole woman and the whole of her life; whatever lies beyond its ken and care is scorned and rejected. This love is extreme in its humility, and yet realizes its own purity and worth; it is grieved at the thought of rousing a feeling baser than itself. Heloïse had been and still was Heloïse, devoted and self-sacrificing in her love. But the situation has become torture; her heart is filled with all manner of pain, old and new, till it is driven[Pg 16] to assert its right at least to consolation. Thus Heloïse’s love becomes insistent and requiring. Was it possibly burdensome to the man who now might wish to think no more of passion? who might wish no longer to be loved in that way? In his reply Abaelard does not unveil himself; he seems to take an attitude which may have been the most faithful expression that he could devise of his changed self.

“To Heloïse his beloved sister in Christ, Abaelard her brother in the Same.”

This superscription was a gentle reminder of their present relationship—in Christ. The writer begins: his not having written since their conversion was to be ascribed not to his negligence, but to his confidence in her wisdom; he did not think that she who, so full of grace, had consoled her sister nuns when prioress, could as abbess need teaching or exhortation for the guidance of her daughters; but if, in her humility, she felt the need of his instruction in matters pertaining to God, she might write, and he would answer, as the Lord should grant. Thanks be to God who had filled their hearts—hers and her nuns—with solicitude for his perils, and had made them participators in his afflictions; through their prayers the divine pity had protected him. He had hastened to send the Psalter, requested by his sister, formerly dear to him in the world and now most dear in Christ, to assist their prayers. The potency of prayer, with God and the saints, and especially the prayer of women for those dear to them, is frequently declared in Scripture; he cites a number of passages to prove it. May these move her to pray for him. He refers with affectionate gratitude to the prayers which the nuns had been offering for him, and encloses a short prayer for his safety, which he begs and implores may be used in their daily canonical hours. If the Lord, however, delivers him into the hands of his enemies to kill him, or if he meet his death in any way, he begs that his body may be brought to the Paraclete for burial, so that the sight of his sepulchre may move his daughters and sisters in Christ to pray for him; no place could be so safe and salutary for the soul of one bitterly repenting of his sins, as that consecrated to the true Paraclete—the Comforter;[Pg 17] nor could fitter Christian burial be found than among women devoted by their vows to Christ. He begs that the great solicitude which they now have for his bodily safety, they will then have for the salvation of his soul, and by the suffrage of their prayer for the dead man show how they had loved him when alive. The letter closes, not with a personal word to Heloïse, but with this distich:

“Vive, vale, vivantque tuae valeantque sorores,
Vivite, sed Christo, quaeso, mei memores.”

Thus as against Heloïse’s beseeching love, Abaelard lifted his hands, palms out, repelling it. His letter ignored all that filled the soul and the letter of Heloïse. His reply did not lack words of spiritual affection, and its tone was not as formal then as it now seems. When Abaelard asked for the prayers of Heloïse and her nuns, he meant it; he desired the efficacy of their prayers. Then he wished to be buried among them. We are touched by this; but, again, Abaelard meant it, as he said, for his soul’s welfare; it was no love sentiment. The letter stirred the heart of Heloïse to a rebellious outcry against the cruelty of God, if not of Abaelard, a soul’s cry against life and the calm attitude of one who no longer was—or at least meant to be no longer—what he had been to her.

“To her only one, next to Christ, his only one in Christ.

“I wonder, my only one, that contrary to epistolary custom and the natural order of things, in the salutation of your letter you have placed me before you, a woman before a man, a wife before a husband, a servant before her lord, a nun before a monk and priest, a deaconess before an abbot. The proper order is for one writing to a superior to put his own name last, but when writing to an inferior, the writer’s name should precede. We also marvelled, that where you should have afforded us consolation, you added to our desolation, and excited the tears you should have quieted. How could we restrain our tears when reading what you wrote towards the end: ‘If the Lord shall deliver me into the hand of my enemies to slay me’! Dearest, how couldst thou think or say that? May God never forget His handmaids, to leave them living when you are no more! May He never allot to us that life, which would be harder than any death! It is for you to perform our obsequies and commend our souls to God, and send before to God those whom you have gathered for Him—that you may have no further anxiety, and follow us the more gladly because assured of our safety.[Pg 18] Refrain, my lord, I beg, from making the miserable most miserable with such words; destroy not our life before we die. ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof’—and that day will come to all with bitterness enough. ‘What need,’ says Seneca, ‘to add to evil, and destroy life before death?’

“Thou askest, only one, that, in the event of thy death when absent from us, we should have thy body brought to our cemetery, in order that, being always in our memory, thou shouldst obtain greater benefit from our prayers. Did you think that your memory could slip from us? How could we pray, with distracted minds? What use of tongue or reason would be left to us? When the mind is crazed against God it will not placate Him with prayer so much as irritate Him with complaints. We could only weep, pressing to follow rather than bury you. How could we live after we had lost our life in you? The thought of your death is death to us; what would be the actuality? God grant we shall not have to pay those rites to one from whom we look for them; may we go before and not follow! A heart crushed with grief is not calm, nor is a mind tossed by troubles open to God. Do not, I beg, hinder the divine service to which we are dedicated.

“What remains of hope for me when thou art gone? Or what reason to continue in this pilgrimage, where I have no solace save thee? and of thee I have but the bare knowledge that thou dost live, since thy restoring presence is not granted me. Oh!—if it is right to say it—how cruel has God been to me! Inclement Clemency! Fortune has emptied her quiver against me, so that others have nothing to fear! If indeed a single dart were left, no place could be found in me for a new wound. Fortune fears only lest I escape her tortures by death. Wretched and unhappy! in thee I was lifted above all women; in thee am I the more fatally thrown down. What glory did I have in thee! what ruin have I now! Fortune made me the happiest of women that she might make me the most miserable. The injury was the more outrageous in that all ways of right were broken. While we were abandoned to love’s delights, the divine severity spared us. When we made the forbidden lawful and by marriage wiped out fornication’s stains, the Lord’s wrath broke on us, impatient of an unsullied bed when it long had borne with one defiled. A man taken in adultery would have been amply punished by what came to you. What others deserved for adultery, that you got from the marriage which you thought had made amends for everything. Adulteresses bring their paramours what your own wife brought you. Not when we lived for pleasure, but when, separated, we lived in chastity, you presiding at the Paris schools, I at thy command dwelling with the nuns at Argenteuil; you devoted to study, I to prayer and holy reading; it was then that you alone paid the penalty for what we had done together. Alone you bore[Pg 19] the punishment, which you deserved less than I. When you had humiliated yourself and elevated me and all my kin, you little merited that punishment either from God or from those traitors. Miserable me, begotten to cause such a crime! O womankind ever the ruin of the noblest men![4]

“Well the Tempter knows how easy is man’s overthrow through a wife. He cast his malice over us, and the man whom he could not throw down through fornication, he tried with marriage, using a good to bring about an evil where evil means had failed. I thank God at least for this, that the Tempter did not draw me to assent to that which became the cause of the evil deed. Yet, although in this my mind absolves me, too many sins had gone before to leave me guiltless of that crime. For long a servant of forbidden joys, I earned the punishment which I now suffer of past sins. Let the evil end be attributed to ill beginnings! May my penitence be meet for what I have done, and may long remorse in some way compensate for the penalty you suffered! What once you suffered in the body, may I through contrition bear to the end of life, that so I may make satisfaction to thee if not to God. To confess the infirmities of my most wretched soul, I can find no penitence to offer God, whom I never cease to accuse of utter cruelty towards you. Rebellious to His rule, I offend Him with indignation more than I placate Him with penitence. For that cannot be called the sinner’s penitence where, whatever be the body’s suffering, the mind retains the will to sin and still burns with the same desires. It is easy in confession to accuse oneself of sins, and also to do penance with the body; but hard indeed to turn the heart from the desire of its greatest joys![5] Love’s pleasures, which we knew together, cannot be made displeasing to me nor driven from my memory. Wherever I turn, they press upon me, nor do they spare my dreams. Even in the solemn moments of the Mass, when prayer should be the purest, their phantoms catch my soul. When I should groan for what I have done, I sigh for what I have lost. Not only our acts, but times and places stick fast in my mind, and my body quivers. O truly wretched me, fit only to utter this cry of the soul: ‘Wretched that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ Would I could add with truth what follows:—‘I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Such thanksgiving, dearest, may be thine, by one bodily ill cured of many tortures of the soul, and God may have been merciful where He seemed against you; like a good physician who does not spare the pain needed to save life. But I am tortured with passion and the fires of memory. They call me chaste, who do not know me for a[Pg 20] hypocrite. They look upon purity of the flesh as virtue—which is of the soul, not of the body. Having some praise from men, I merit none from God, who knows the heart. I am called religious at a time when most religion is hypocrisy, and when whoever keeps from offence against human law is praised. Perhaps it seems praiseworthy and acceptable to God, through decent conduct,—whatever the intent—to avoid scandalizing the Church or causing the Lord’s name to be blasphemed or the religious Order discredited. Perhaps it may be of grace just to abstain from evil. But the Scripture says, ‘Refrain from evil and do good’; and vainly he attempts either who does not act from love of God. God knows that I have always feared to offend thee more than I feared to offend Him; and have desired to please thee rather than Him. Thy command, not the divine love, put on me this garb of religion. What a wretched life I lead if I vainly endure all this here and am to have no reward hereafter. My hypocrisy has long deceived you, as it has others, and therefore you desire my prayers. Have no such confidence; I need your prayers; do not withdraw their aid. Do not take away the medicine, thinking me whole. Do not cease to think me needy; do not think me strong; do not delay your help. Cease from praising me, I beg. No one versed in medicine will judge of inner disease from outward view. Thy praise is the more perilous because I love it, and desire to please thee always. Be fearful rather than confident regarding me, so that I may have the help of your care. Do not seek to spur me on, by quoting, ‘For strength is made perfect in weakness,’ or ‘He is not crowned unless he have contended lawfully.’ I am not looking for the crown of victory; enough for me to escape peril;—safer to shun peril than to wage war! In whatever little corner of heaven God puts me, that will satisfy me. Hear what Saint Jerome says: ‘I confess my weakness; I do not wish to fight for the hope of victory, lest I lose.’ Why give up certainties to follow the uncertain?”

This letter gives a view of Heloïse’s mind, its strong grasp and its capacity for reasoning, though its reasoning is here distraught with passion. Scathingly, half-blinded by her pain, she declares the perversities of Providence, as they glared upon her. Such a disclosure of the woman’s mind suggests how broadly based in thought and largely reared was that great love into which her whole soul had been poured, the mind as well as heart. Her love was great, unique, not only from its force of feeling, but from the power and scope of thought by which passion and feeling were carried out so far and fully to the last conclusions of devotion. The letter also shows a woman driven by stress of misery to utter cries[Pg 21] and clutch at remedies that her calmer self would have put by. It is not hypocrisy to conceal the desires or imaginings which one would never act upon. To tell these is not true disclosure of oneself, but slander. Torn by pain, Heloïse makes herself more vile and needy than in other moments she knew herself to be. Yet the letter also uncovers her, and in nakedness there is some truth. Doubtless her nun’s garb did clothe a hypocrite. Whatever she felt—and here we see the worst she felt—before the world she had to act the nun. We shall soon see how she forced herself to act, or be, the nun toward Abaelard.

Abaelard replied in a letter filled with religious argument and consolation. It was self-controlled, firm, authoritative, and strong in those arguments regarding God’s mercy which have stood the test of time. If they sometimes fail to satisfy the embittered soul, at least they are the best that man has known. And withal, the letter is calmly and nobly affectionate—what place was there for love’s protestations? They would have increased the evil, adding fuel to Heloïse’s passionate misery.

The master-note is struck in the address: “To the spouse of Christ, His servant.” The letter seeks to turn Heloïse’s thoughts to her nun’s calling and her soul’s salvation. It divides her expressions of complaint under four heads. First, he had put her name first, because she had become his superior from the moment of her bridal with his master Christ. Jerome writing to Eustochium called her Lady, when she had become the spouse of Jerome’s Lord. Abaelard shows, with citations from the Song of Songs, the glory of the spouse, and how her prayers should be sought by one who was the servant of her Husband. Second, as to the terrors roused in her by his mention of his peril and possible death, he points out that in her first letter she had bidden him write of those perils; if they brought him death, she should deem that a kind release. She should not wish to see his miseries drawn out, even for her sake. Third, he shows that his praise of her was justified even by her disclaimer of merit—as it is written, Who humbles himself shall be exalted. He warns her against false modesty which may be vanity.

[Pg 22]He turns at last to the old and ceaseless plaint which she makes against God for cruelty, when she should rather glorify Him; he had thought that that bitterness had departed, so dangerous for her, so painful to him. If she wished to please him, let her lay it aside; retaining it, she could not please him or advance with him to blessedness; let her have this much religion, not to separate herself from him hastening to God; let her take comfort in their journeying to the same goal. He then shows her that his punishment was just as well as merciful; he had deserved it from God and also from Fulbert. If she will consider, she will see in it God’s justice and His mercy; God had saved them from shipwreck; had raised a barrier against shame and lust. For himself the punishment was purification, not privation; will not she, as his inseparable comrade, participate in the workings of this grace, even as she shared the guilt and its pardon? Once he had thought of binding her to him in wedlock; but God found a means to turn them both to Him; and the Lord was continuing His mercy towards her, causing her to bring forth spiritual daughters, when otherwise she would only have borne children in the flesh; in her the curse of Eve is turned to the blessing of Mary. God had purified them both; whom God loveth He correcteth. Oh! let her thoughts dwell with the Son of God, seized, dragged, beaten, spit upon, crowned with thorns, hung on a vile cross. Let her think of Him as her spouse, and for Him let her make lament; He bought her with himself, He loved her. In comparison with His love, his own (Abaelard’s) was lust, seeking the pleasure it could get from her. If he, Abaelard, had suffered for her, it was not willingly nor for her sake, as Christ had suffered, and for her salvation. Let her weep for Him who made her whole, not for her corrupter; for her Redeemer, not for her defiler; for the Lord who died for her, not for the living servant, himself just freed from the death. Let his sister accept with patience what came to her in mercy from Him who wounded the body to save the soul.

“We are one in Christ, as through marriage we were one flesh. Whatever is thine is not alien to me. Christ is thine, because thou art His spouse. And now thou hast me for a servant, who formerly was thy master—a servant united to thee by spiritual love. I trust[Pg 23] in thy pleading with Him for such defence as my own prayers may not obtain. That nothing may hinder this petition I have composed this prayer, which I send thee: ‘O God, who formed woman from the side of man and didst sanction the sacrament of marriage; who didst bestow upon my frailty a cure for its incontinence; do not despise the prayers of thy handmaid, and the prayers which I pour out for my sins and those of my dear one. Pardon our great crimes, and may the enormity of our faults find the greatness of thy ineffable mercy. Punish the culprits in the present; spare, in the future. Thou hast joined us, Lord, and hast divided us, as it pleased thee. Now complete most mercifully what thou hast begun in mercy; and those whom thou hast divided in this world, join eternally in heaven, thou who art our hope, our portion, our expectation, our consolation, Lord blessed forever. Amen.’

“Farewell in Christ, spouse of Christ; in Christ farewell and in Christ live. Amen.”

In her next letter Heloïse obeys, and turns her pen if not her thoughts to the topics suggested by Abaelard’s admonitions. The short scholastically phrased address cannot be rendered in any modern fashion: “Domino specialiter sua singulariter.”

“That you may have no further reason to call me disobedient, your command shall bridle the words of unrestrained grief; in writing I will moderate my language, which I might be unable to do in speech. Nothing is less in our power than our heart; which compels us to obey more often than it obeys us. When our affections goad us, we cannot keep the sudden impulse from breaking out in words; as it is written, ‘From the fulness of the heart the mouth speaketh.’ So I will withhold my hand from writing whenever I am unable to control my words. Would that the sorrowing heart were as ready to obey as the hand that writes! You can afford some remedy to grief, even when unable to dispel it quite. As one nail driven in drives out another, a new thought pushes away its predecessor, and the mind is freed for a time. A thought, moreover, takes the mind up and leads it from others more effectually, if the subject of the thought is excellent and of great importance.”

The rest of this long letter shows Heloïse putting her principles in practice. She is forcing her mind to consider and her pen to discourse upon topics which might properly occupy an abbess’s thoughts—topics, moreover, which would satisfy Abaelard and call forth long letters in reply. Whether she cared really for these matters or ever came[Pg 24] to care for them; or whether she turned to them to distract her mind and keep up some poor makeshift of intercourse with one who would and could no longer be her lover; or whether all these motives mingled, and in what proportion, perhaps may best be left to Him who tries the heart.

The abbess writes:

“All of us here, servants of Christ and thy daughters, make two requests of thy fathership which we deem most needful. The one is, that you would instruct us concerning the origins of the order of nuns and the authority for our calling. The other is, that you would draw up a written regula, suitable for women, which shall prescribe and set the order and usages of our convent. We do not find any adequate regula for women among the works of the holy Fathers. It is a manifest defect in monastic institutions that the same rules should be imposed upon both monks and nuns, and that the weaker sex should bear the same monastic yoke as the stronger.”

Heloïse, having set this task for Abaelard, proceeds to show how the various monastic regulae, from Benedict’s downward, failed to make suitable provision for the habits and requirements and weaknesses of women, the regulae hitherto having been concerned with the weaknesses of men. She enters upon matters of clothing and diet, and everything concerning the lives of nuns. She writes as one learned in Scripture and the writings of the Fathers, and sets the whole matter forth, in its details, with admirable understanding of its intricacies. She concludes, reminding Abaelard that it is for him in his lifetime to set a regula for them to follow forever; after God, he is their founder. They might thereafter have some teacher who would build in alien fashion; such a one might have less care and understanding, and might not be as readily obeyed as himself; it is for him to speak, and they will listen. Vale.

The first of Heloïse’s letters is a great expression of a great love; in the second, anguish drives the writer’s hand; in the third, she has gained self-control; she suppresses her heart, and writes a letter which is discursive and impersonal from the beginning to the little Vale at the end.

Abaelard returned a long epistle upon the Scriptural origin of the order of nuns, and soon followed it with another, still longer, containing instruction, advice, and rules[Pg 25] for the nuns of the Paraclete. He also wrote them a letter upon the study of Scripture. From this time forth he proved his devotion to Heloïse and her nuns by the large body of writings which he composed for their edification. Heloïse sent him a long list of questions upon obscure phrases and knotty points of Scripture, which he answered diligently in detail.[6] He then sent her a collection of hymns written or “rearranged” by himself for the use of the nuns, accompanied by a prefatory letter: “At thy prayers, my sister Heloïse, once dear to me in the world, now most dear in Christ, I have composed what in Greek are called hymns, and in Hebrew tillim.” He then explains why, yielding to the requests of the nuns, he had written hymns, of which the Church had such a store.

Next he composed for them a large volume of sermons, which he also sent with a letter to Heloïse: “Having completed the book of hymns and sequences, revered in Christ and loved sister Heloïse, I have hastened to compose some sermons for your congregation; I have paid more attention to the meaning than the language. But perhaps an unstudied style is well suited to simple auditors. In composing and arranging these sermons I have followed the order of Church festivals. Farewell in the Lord, servant of His, once dear to me in the world, now most dear in Christ: in the flesh then my wife, now my sister in the spirit and partner in our sacred calling.”

At a subsequent period, when his opinions were condemned by the Council of Sens, he sent to Heloïse a confession of faith. Shortly afterward his stormy life found a last refuge in the monastery of Cluny. His closing years (of peace?) are described in a letter to Heloïse from the good and revered abbot, Peter the Venerable. He writes that he had received with joy the letter which her affection had dictated,[7] and now took the first opportunity to express his recognition of her affection and his reverence for herself. He refers to her keenly prosecuted studies[Pg 26] (so rare for women) before taking the veil, and then to the glorious example of her sage and holy life in the nun’s sacred calling—her victory over the proud Prince of this World. His admiration for her was deep; his expression of it was extreme. A learned, wise, and holy woman could not be praised more ardently than Heloïse is praised by this good man. He had spoken of the advantages his monastery would have derived from her presence, and then continued:

“But although God’s providence denied us this, it was granted us to enjoy the presence of him—who was yours—Master Peter Abaelard, a man always to be spoken of with honour as a true servant of Christ and a philosopher. The divine dispensation placed him in Cluny for his last years, and through him enriched our monastery with treasure richer than gold. No brief writing could do justice to his holy, humble, and devoted life among us. I have not seen his equal in humility of garb and manner. When in the crowd of our brethren I forced him to take a first place, in meanness of clothing he appeared as the last of all. Often I marvelled, as the monks walked past me, to see a man so great and famous thus despise and abase himself. He was abstemious in food and drink, refusing and condemning everything beyond the bare necessities. He was assiduous in study, frequent in prayer, always silent unless compelled to answer the question of some brother or expound sacred themes before us. He partook of the sacrament as often as possible. Truly his mind, his tongue, his act, taught and exemplified religion, philosophy, and learning. So he dwelt with us, a man simple and righteous, fearing God, turning from evil, consecrating to God the latter days of his life. At last, because of his bodily infirmities, I sent him to a quiet and salubrious retreat on the banks of the Saone. There he bent over his books, as long as his strength lasted, always praying, reading, writing, or dictating. In these sacred exercises, not sleeping but watching, he was found by the heavenly Visitor; who summoned him to the eternal wedding-feast not as a foolish but as a wise virgin, bearing his lamp filled with oil—the consciousness of a holy life. When he came to pay humanity’s last debt, his illness was brief. With holy devotion he made confession of the Catholic Faith, then of his sins. The brothers who were with him can testify how devoutly he received the viaticum of that last journey, and with what fervent faith he commended his body and soul to his Redeemer. Thus this master, Peter, completed his days. He who was known throughout the world by the fame of his teaching, entered the school of Him who said, ‘Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart’; and continuing meek and lowly he passed to Him, as we may believe.

[Pg 27]“Venerable and dearest sister in the Lord, the man who was once joined to thee in the flesh, and then by the stronger chain of divine love, him in thy stead, or as another thee, the Lord holds in His bosom; and at the day of His coming, His grace will restore him to thee.”

The abbot afterwards visited the Paraclete, and on returning to Cluny received this letter from the abbess:

“God’s mercy visiting us, we have been visited by the favour of your graciousness. We are glad, kindest father, and we glory that your greatness condescended to our insignificance. A visit from you is an honour even to the great. The others may know the great benefit they received from the presence of your highness. I cannot tell in words, or even comprehend in thought, how beneficial and how sweet your coming was to me. You, our abbot and our lord, celebrated mass with us the sixteenth of the Calends of last December; you commended us to the Holy Spirit; you nourished us with the Divine Word;—you gave us the body of the master, and confirmed that gift from Cluny. To me also, unworthy to be your servant, though by word and letter you have called me sister, you gave as a pledge of sincere love the privilege of a Tricenarium, to be performed by the brethren of Cluny, after my death, for the benefit of my soul. You have promised to confirm this under your seal. May you fulfil this, my lord. Might it please you also to send to me that other sealed roll, containing the absolution of the master, that I may hang it on his tomb. Remember also, for the love of God, our—and your—Astralabius, to obtain for him a prebend from the bishop of Paris or another. Farewell. May God preserve you, and grant to us sometime your presence.”

The good abbot replied with a kind and affectionate letter, confirming his gift of the Tricenarium, promising to do all he could for Astralabius, and sending with his letter the record of Abaelard’s absolution, as follows:

“I, Peter, Abbot of Cluny, who received Peter Abaelard to be a monk in Cluny, and granted his body, secretly transported, to the Abbess Heloïse and the nuns of the Paraclete, absolve him, in the performance of my office (pro officio) by the authority of the omnipotent God and all the saints, from all his sins.”

Abaelard died in the year 1142, aged sixty-three. Twenty-one years afterward Heloïse died at the same age, and was buried in the same tomb with him at the Paraclete:

“Hoc tumulo abbatissa jacet prudens Heloïssa.”



[Pg 28]



A criticism of the world of feudalism, chivalry, and love may be had from the impressions and temperamental reactions of a certain thinking atom revolving in the same. The atom referred to was Walther von der Vogelweide, a German, a knight, a Minnesinger, and a national poet whose thoughts were moved by the instincts of his caste and race.

In language, temperament, and character, the Germans east of the Rhine were Germans still in the thirteenth century. They had accepted, and even vitally appropriated, Latin Christianity; those of them who were educated had received a Latin education. Yet their natures, though somewhat tempered, showed largely and distinctly German. Moreover, through the centuries, they had acquired—or rather they had never lost—a national antipathy toward those Roman papal well-springs of authority, which seemed to suck back German gold and lands in return for spiritual assurance and political betrayal.

A different and already mediaevalized element had also become part of German culture, to wit, the matter of the French Arthurian romances and the lyric fashions of Provence, which, working together, had captivated modish German circles from the Rhine to the Danube. Nevertheless the German character maintained itself in the Minnelieder which followed Provençal poetry, and in the höfisch (courtly) epics which were palpable translations from the French.[8] The distinguished group of German poets whose[Pg 29] lives fall around the year 1200, were as German as their language, although they borrowed from abroad the form and matter of their compositions.

There could be no better Germans than the two most thoughtful of this group, Wolfram von Eschenbach and Walther von der Vogelweide. Most Germanically the former wrestled with that ancient theme, “from suffering, wisdom,” which he pressed into the tale of Parzival. His great poem, achieved with toil and sweat, was mighty in its climaxes, and fit to strengthen the hearts of those men who through sorrow and loneliness and despair’s temptations were growing “slowly wise.”

The virtues which Wolfram praised and embodied in his hero were those praised in the verses, and even, one may think, strugglingly exemplified in the conduct, of Walther von der Vogelweide,[9] most famous of Minnesingers, and a power in the German lands through his Sprüche, or verses personal and political. Less is known of his life than of his whole and manly views, his poetic fancies, his musings, his hopes, and great depressions. Many places have claimed the honour of his birth, which took place somewhat before 1170. He was poor, and through his youth and manhood moved about from castle to castle, and from court to court, seeking to win some recompense for his excellent verses and good company. Thus he learned much of men, “climbing another’s stairs,” with his fellows, at the Landgraf Hermann’s Wartburg, or at the Austrian ducal Court.

Walther’s Sprüche render his moods most surely, and reflect his outlook on the world. His charming Minnelieder bear more conventional evidence. The courtly German love-songs passing by this name were affected by the conceits and conventions of the Provençal poetry upon which they[Pg 30] were modelled. A strong nature might use such with power, or break with their influence. Walther made his own the high convention of trouvère and troubadour, that love uplifts the lover’s being. Besides this, and besides the lighter forms and phrases current in such poetry, his Lieder carry natural feeling, joy, and moral levity, according to the theme; they also may express Walther’s convictions.

To take examples: Walther’s Tagelied[10] imitates the Provençal alba (dawn), in which knight and truant lady bewail the coming of the light and the parting which it brings. Far more joyous, and as immoral as one pleases, is Unter der Linde, most famous of his songs. Marvellously it gives the mood of love’s joy remembered—and anticipated too. The immorality is complete (if we will be serious), and is rendered most alluring by the utter gladness of the girl’s song—no repentance, no regret; only joy and roguish laughter.

Walther was young, he was a knight and a Minnesinger; he had doubtless loved, in this way! His love-songs have plenty to say of the red mouth, good for kissing—I care not who knows it either. But he also realizes, and greatly sings, the height and breadth and worth of love the true and stable, the blessing and completion of two lives, which comes to a false heart never.[11] He seems to feel it necessary to defend love for itself, perhaps because marriage was taken more seriously in this imitative German literature than in the French and Provençal originals: “Who says that love is sin, let him consider well. Many an honour dwells with her, and troth and happiness. If one does ill to the other, love is grieved. I do not mean false love; that were better named un-love. No friend of that, am I.” But his thoughts turn quickly to love as a lasting union: “He happy man, she happy woman, whose hearts are to each other true; both lives increased in price and worth; blessed their years and all their days.”[12]

Giving play to his caustic temper, Walther puts scorn upon the light of love: “Fool he who cannot understand what joy and good, love brings. But the light man is ever[Pg 31] pleased with light things, as is fit!”[13] This Minnesinger applied most earnest standards to life; lofty his praise of the qualities of womanhood, which are better than beauty or riches: “woman” is a higher word than “lady”[14]—it took a German to say this. “He who carries hidden sorrow in his heart, let him think upon a good woman—he is freed.”[15] With a burst of patriotism, in one of his greatest poems Walther praises German women as the best in all the world.[16]

But even in the Minnelieder, Walther has his despondencies. One of the most definite, and possibly conventional, was regret for love’s labour lost, and the days of youth spent in service of an ungracious fair. The poet wonders how it is that he who has helped other men is tongue-tied before his lady. Again, his reflections broaden from thoughts of unresponsive fair ones to a conviction of life’s thanklessness. “I have well served the World (Frau Welt, Society), and gladly would serve her more, but for her evil thanks and her way of preferring fools to me.... Come, World, give me better greeting—the loss is not all mine.” He knows his good unbending temper which will not endure to hear ill spoken of the upright. But he thinks, what is the use? why speak so sweetly, why sing, when virtue and beauty are so lightly held, and every one does evil, fearing nought? The verse which carries these reflections is tossing in the squally haven of Society; soon the poet will encounter the wild sea without. Still from the windy harbour comes one grand lament over art’s decline: “The worst songs please, frogs’ voices! Oh, I laugh from anger! Lady World, no score of mine is on your devil’s slate. Many a life of man and woman have I made glad—might I so have gladdened mine! Here, I make my Will, and bequeath my goods—to the envious my ill-luck, my sorrows to the liars, my follies to false lovers, and to the ladies my heart’s pain.”[17] He makes a solemn offering of his poems: “Good women, worthy men, a loving greeting is my due. Forty years have I sung fittingly of love; and now, take my songs which gladden, as my gift to you. Your favour be my return. And with my staff I will fare on, still wooing worth with[Pg 32] undisheartened work, as from my childhood. So shall I be, in lowly lot, one of the Noble—for me enough.”

To relish Walther’s love-songs, one need not know whether she was dark or fair, kept forest-tryst or listened by some castle’s hearth, or in what German land that castle stood. Likewise in his Sprüche, which have other bearing, the roll of his protesting voice carries the universal human. To comprehend them it were well to know that life was then as now niggardly in rewarding virtue; beyond this, one needs to have the type-idea of the Empire and the Papacy, those two powers which were set, somewhat antagonistically, on the decree of God; both claiming the world’s headship; the one, Roman in tradition, but in strength and temper German, and of this world decidedly. The other, Roman in the genius of its organization, and Christian in its subordination of the life below to the life to come, if not in the methods of establishing this consummation; Christian too, but more especially mediaeval, in its formal disdain for whatever belonged to earth. In Germany these two partial opposites were further antagonized, since the native resources recoiled from the foreign drain upon them, and the struggling patriotism of a broken land resented the pressure of a state within and above the state of duke and king and emperor.

In Walther’s time Innocent III. swayed the nations from Peter’s throne. Just before Innocent’s accession, Germany’s able emperor, Henry VI., died suddenly in Sicily (September 1197), leaving an heir not two years old. The queen-mother, dying the next year, bequeathed this child, Frederick, to the paternal care of Innocent, his feudal as well as ghostly lord, since the queen, for herself and child, had accepted the Pope as the feudal suzerain of their kingdom of Sicily. In Germany (using that name loosely and broadly) Philip Hohenstauffen, Henry’s brother and Duke of Suabia, claimed the throne. His unequal opponent was Otto of Brunswick, of the ever-rebellious house of Henry the Lion. The Pope opposed the Hohenstauffen; but was obliged to acknowledge him when the course of the ten years of wasting civil war in Germany decided in his favour—whereupon, alack! Philip was murdered (1207). Quickly the Pope turned back to Otto; but the latter, after he had been crowned king and[Pg 33] emperor, became intolerable to Innocent through the compulsion of his position as the head of an empire inherently hostile to the papacy. To thwart him Innocent set up his own ward, Frederick. Soon this precocious youth began to make head against pope-forsaken Otto; and then the excommunicated emperor was overthrown in 1214 by Philip Augustus of France, who had intervened in Frederick’s favour. So Otto passed away, and, some time after, Frederick was crowned German king at Aix-la-Chapelle.[18] In the meanwhile Innocent died (1216), and amity followed between Frederick and the gentle Honorius III., who crowned Frederick emperor at Rome in 1220. This peace ended quickly when the sterner Gregory IX. ascended the papal throne on the death of Honorius in 1227.

Walther’s life extended through these events. Though apparently changing sides under the stress of his necessities, he was patriotically German to the end. First he clave to the Hohenstauffen, Philip, as the true upholder of German interests against Otto and the Pope. On Philip’s death, he turned to Otto; but with all the world left him at last for Frederick. It is known that Walther, an easily angered man, felt himself ill-used by Otto and justified in turning to the open-handed Frederick, who finally gave him a small fief. To the last, Walther upheld him as Germany’s sovereign. Probably the poet died in the year 1228, just as Gregory was succeeding Honorius, and the death-struggle of the Empire with the Papacy was opening.

With no light heart, as well may be imagined, had Walther looked about him on the death of the emperor Henry in 1197. “I sat upon a rock, crossed knee on knee, and with elbow so supported, chin on hand I leaned. Anxiously I pondered. I could see no way to win gain without loss. Honour and riches do not go hand in hand, both of less value than God’s favour. Would I have them all? Alas! riches and worldly honour and God’s favour come not within the closure of one heart’s wishes. The ways are barred; perfidy lurks in secret, and might walks the highroads. Peace and law are wounded.”[19]

[Pg 34]The personal dilemma of the poet with his fortune to make, but desirous of doing right, mirrors the desperate situation of the State: “Woe is thee, German tongue; ill stand thy order and thy honour!—I hear the lies of Rome betraying two kings!” And in verses of wrath Walther inveighs against the Pope. The sweeping nature of his denunciation raises the question whether he merely attacked the supposed treachery of the reigning pope, or was opposed to the papacy as an institution hostile to the German nation.

The answer is not clear. Mediaeval denunciations of the Church range from indictments of particular abuses, on through more general invectives, to the clear protests of heretics impugning the ecclesiastical system. It is not always easy to ascertain the speaker’s meaning. Usually the abuse and not the system is attacked. Hostility to the latter, however sweeping the language of satirist or preacher, is not lightly to be inferred. The invectives of St. Bernard and Damiani are very broad; but where had the Church more devoted sons? Even the satirists composing in Old French rarely intended an assault upon her spiritual authority. It would seem as if, at least in the Romance countries, one must look for such hostility to heretical circles, the Waldenses for example. And from the orthodox mediaeval standpoint, this was their most accursed heresy.

It would have been hard for any German to use broader language than some of the French satirists and Latin castigators. If there was a difference, it must be sought in the specific matter of the German disapproval viewed in connection with the political situation. Was a position ever taken incompatible with the Church’s absolute spiritual authority? or one intrinsically irreconcilable with the secular power of the papacy? At any time, in any country, papal claims might become irreconcilable with the royal prerogative—as William the Conqueror had held those of Gregory VII. in England, and as, two centuries afterwards, Philip the Fair was to hold those of Boniface VIII. in France. But in neither case was there such sheer and fundamental antagonism as men felt to exist between the Empire and the Papacy. Perhaps it was possible in the early thirteenth century for a German whose whole heart[Pg 35] was on the German side to dispute even the sacerdotal principle of papal authority. It is hard to judge otherwise of Freidank, the very German composer or collector of trenchant sayings in the early thirteenth century. Many of these sneer at Rome and the Pope, and some of them strike the gist of the matter: “Sunde nieman mac vergeben wan Got alein” (“God alone can forgive sins”). This is the direct statement; he gives its scornful converse: “Could the Pope absolve me from my oaths and duties, I’d let other sureties go and fasten to him alone.”[20] Such words mean denial of the Church’s authority to forgive, and the Pope’s to grant absolution from oaths of allegiance. Freidank is very near rejecting the principles of the ecclesiastical system.

Walther, Freidank’s contemporary, is more picturesque: “King Constantine, he gave so much—as I will tell you—to the Chair of Rome: spear, cross, and crown. At once the angels cried: ‘Alas! Alas! Alas! Christendom before stood crowned with righteousness. Now is poison fallen on her, and her honey turned to gall—sad for the world henceforth!’ To-day the princes all live in honour; only their highest languishes—so works the priest’s election. Be that denounced to thee, sweet God! The priests would upset laymen’s rights: true is the angels’ prophecy.”[21]

On Constantine’s apocryphal gift, symbolized by the emblems of Christ’s passion, rested the secular authority of the popes, which Walther laments with the angels. “The Chair of Rome was first set up by Sorcerer Gerbert! [Queer history this, but we see what he means.] He destroyed his own soul only; but this one would bring down Christendom with him to perdition. When will all tongues call Heaven to arms, and ask God how long He will sleep? They bring to nought His work, distort His Word. His steward steals His treasure; His judge robs here and murders there; His shepherd has become a wolf among His sheep.”[22] The clergy point their fingers heavenward while they travel fast to hell.[23] How laughs the Pope at us, when at home with his Italians, at the way he empties our German pockets into[Pg 36] his “poor boxes.”[24] Walther’s hatred of the foreign Pope is roused at every point. And at last, in a Spruch full of implied meaning, he declares that Christ’s word as to the tribute money meant that the emperor should receive his royal due.[25]

These utterances, considered in the light of the political and racial situation, seem to deny, at least implicitly, the secular power of the papacy. Yet in matters of religion Walther apparently was entirely orthodox, and a pious Christian. He has left a sweet prayer to Christ, with ample recognition of the angels and the saints, and a beautiful verse of penitent contrition, in which he confesses his sins to God very directly—how that he does the wrong, and leaves the right, and fails in love of neighbour. “Father, Son, may thy Spirit lighten mine; how may I love him who does me ill? Ever dear to me is he who treats me well!”[26] Walther’s questing spirit also pondered over God’s greatness and incomprehensibility.[27] His open mind is shown by the famous line: “Him (God) Christians, Jews, and heathen serve,”[28] a breadth of view shared by his friend Wolfram von Eschenbach, who speaks of the chaste virtue of a heathen lady as equal to baptism.[29]

The personal lot of this proud heart was not an easy one; homelessness broke him down, and the bitterness of eating others’ bread. Too well had he learned of the world and all its changing ways, and how poor becomes the soul that follows them. Mortality is a trite sorrow; there are worse: “We all complain that the old die and pass away; rather let us lament taints of another hue, that troth and[Pg 37] seemliness and honour are dead.”[30] At the last Walther’s grey memory of life and his vainly yearning hope took form in a great elegy. After long years he seemed, with heavy steps, and leaning on his wanderer’s staff, to be returning to a home which was changed forever: “Alas! whither are they vanished, my many years! Did I dream my life, or is it real? what I once deemed it, was it that? And now I wake, and all the things and people once familiar, strange! My playmates, dull and old! And the fields changed; only that the streams still flow as then they flowed, my heart would break with thinking on the glad days, vanished in the sea. And the young people! slow and mirthless! and the knights go clad as peasants! Ah! Rome! thy ban! Our groans have stilled the song of birds. Fool I, to speak and so despair,—and the earth looks fair! Up knights again: your swords, your armour! would to God I might fare with your victor band, and gain my pay too—not in lands of earth! Oh! might I win the eternal crown from that sweet voyage beyond the sea, then would I sing O joy! and never more, alas—never more, alas.”[31]

[Pg 38]



[Pg 39]


[Pg 40]


[Pg 41]



Words, pictures, and other vehicles of expression are symbols of whatever they are intended to designate. A certain unavoidable symbolism also inheres in human mental processes; for the mind in knowing “turns itself to images,” as Aquinas says following Aristotle; and every statement or formulation is a casting together of data in some presentable and representative form. An example is the Apostles’ Creed, called also by this very name of Symbol, being a casting together, an elementary formula, of the essentials of the Christian Faith. In the same sense the “law of gravitation” or a moral precept is a deduction, induction, or gathering together into a representative symbol, of otherwise unassembled and uncorrelated experience. In the present and following chapters, however, the term symbol will be used in its common acceptation to indicate a thing, an act, or a word invested with an adventitious representative significance. All statements or expressions (through language or by means of pictures) which are intended to carry, besides their palpable meaning, another which is veiled and more spiritual, are symbolical or figurative, and more specifically are called allegories.[32]

[Pg 42]These devices of the mind have a history as old as humanity. From inscrutable beginnings, in time they become recognized as makeshifts; yet they remain prone to enter new stages of confusion. The mind seeking to express the transcendental, avails itself of symbols. All religions have teemed with them, in their primitive phases scarcely distinguishing between symbol and fact; then a difference becomes evident to clearer-minded men, while perhaps at the same time others are elaborately maintaining that the symbol magically is, or brings to pass, that which it represents. Such obscuring mysticism existed not merely in confused Egypt and Brahminical India, but everywhere—in antique Greece and Rome, and then afterwards through the times of the Christian Church Fathers and the entire Middle Ages. Fact and symbol are seen constantly closing together and becoming each other like the serpent-souls in the twenty-fifth canto of Dante’s Inferno.

Allegory properly speaking, which involves a conscious and sustained effort to invest concrete or material statements with more general or spiritual meaning, played an interesting rôle in epochs antecedent to the patristic and mediaeval periods. Even before Plato’s time the personal myths of the gods shocked the Greek ethical intellect, which thereupon proceeded to convert them into allegories. Greek allegorical interpretation of ancient myth was apologetic to both the critical mind and the moral sense.

With Philo, the Hellenizing Jew of Alexandria, whose philosophy revolted from the literal text of Genesis, the motive for allegorical interpretation was similar. But the document before him was most unlike the Iliad and Odyssey. Genesis contained no palpably immoral stories of Jehovah to be explained away. Its account of divine creation and human beginnings merely needed to be invested with further ethical meaning. So Philo made cardinal virtues of the four rivers of Eden, and through like allegorical conceits transformed the Book of Genesis into a system of Hellenistic[Pg 43] ethics. Not cosmogonic myths, but moral meanings, he had discovered in his document.

Advancing along the path which Philo found, Christian allegorical interpretation undertook to substantiate the validity of the Gospel. To this end it fixed special symbolical meanings upon the Old Testament narratives, so as to make them into prefigurative testimonies to the truth of Christian teachings.[33] Allegory was also called on to justify, as against educated pagans, certain acts of that heroic but peccant “type” of Christ, David, the son of Jesse. Such special apologetic needs hardly affected the allegorical interpretation of the Gospel itself, which began at an early day, and from the first was spiritual and anagogic, constantly straining on to educe further salutary meaning from the text.

The Greek and Latin Church Fathers created the mass of doctrine, including Scriptural interpretation,[34] upon which mediaeval theologians were to expend their systematizing and reconstructive labours. Through the Middle Ages, the course of allegory and symbolism strikingly illustrates the mediaeval way of using the patristic heritage—first painfully learning it, then making it their own, and at last creating by means of that which they had organically appropriated. Allegory and symbolism were to impress the Middle Ages as perhaps no other element of their inheritance. The mediaeval man thought and felt in symbols, and the sequence of his thought moved as frequently from symbol to symbol as from fact to fact.

The allegorical faculty with the Fathers was dogmatic and theological; ingenious in devising useful interpretations, but oblivious to all reasonable propriety in the meaning which it twisted into the text: controversial necessities readily overrode the rational and moral requirements of the “historical” or “literal” meaning. For the deeply realized allegorical significance was a law unto itself. These characteristics of patristic allegory passed over to the Middle Ages, which in the course of time were to impress human qualities upon the patristic material.

[Pg 44]The Bathsheba and Uriah episode in the life of David was of course taken allegorically, and affords a curious example of a patristic interpretation originating in the exigencies of controversy, and then becoming authoritative for later periods when the echoes of the old controversy had long been silent. Augustine was called upon to answer the book of the clever Manichaean, Faustus, the stress of whose attacks was directed against the Old Testament. Faustus declared that he did not blaspheme “the law and the prophets,” but rejected merely the special Hebrew customs and the vile calumnies of the Old Testament writers, imputing shameful acts to prophets and patriarchs. In his list of shocking narratives to be rejected, was the story “that David after having had such a number of wives, defiled the little woman of Uriah his soldier, and caused him to be slain in battle.”[35]

Augustine responds with a general exclamation at the Manichaean’s failure to understand the sacramental symbols (sacramenta) of the Law and the deeds of the prophets. He then speaks of certain Old Testament statements regarding God and His demands, and proceeds to consider the nature of sin and the questionable deeds of the prophets. Some of the reprehended deeds he justifies, as, for instance, Abraham’s intercourse with Hagar and his deceit in telling Abimelech that Sara was his sister when she was his wife. He also declares that Sara typifies the Church, which is the secret spouse of Christ. Proceeding further, he does not justify, but palliates, the conduct of Lot and his daughters, and then introduces its typological significance. At length he comes to David. First he gives a noble estimate of David’s character, his righteousness, his liability to sin, and his quick penitence.[36] Afterwards he considers, briefly as he says, what David’s sin with Bathsheba signifies prophetically.[37] The passage may be given to show what a mixture of banality and disregard of moral propriety in drawing analogies might emanate from the best mind among the[Pg 45] Latin Fathers, and be repeated by later transitional and mediaeval commentators.

“The names themselves when interpreted indicate what this deed prefigured. David is interpreted ‘Strong of hand’ or ‘Desirable.’ And what is stronger than that Lion of the tribe of Judah that overcame the world? and what is more desirable than him of whom the prophet says: ‘The desired of all nations shall come’ (Hag. ii. 7)? Bathsheba means ‘well of satiety,’ or ‘seventh well.’ Whichever of these interpretations we adopt will suit. For in Canticles the Bride who is the Church is called a well of living water (Cant. iv. 15); and to this well the name of the seventh number is joined in the sense of Holy Spirit; and this because of Pentecost (the fiftieth), the day on which the Holy Spirit came. For that same festival is of the weeks (de septimanis constare) as the Book of Tobit testifies. Then to forty-nine, which is seven times seven, one is added, whereby unity is commended. By this spiritual, that is ‘Seven-natured’ (septenario) gift the Church is made a well of satiety; because there is made in her a well of living water springing up unto everlasting life, which whoso has shall never thirst (John iv. 14). Uriah, indeed, who had been her husband, what but devil does his name signify? In whose vilest wedlock all those were bound whom the grace of God sets free, that the Church without spot or wrinkle may be married to her own Saviour. For Uriah is interpreted, ‘My light of God’; and Hittite means ‘cut off,’ or he who does not stand in truth, but by the guilt of pride is cut off from the supernal light which he had from God; or it means, he who in falling away from his true strength which was lost, nevertheless fashioneth himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. xi. 14), daring to say: ‘My light is of God.’ Therefore this David gravely and wickedly sinned; and God rebuked his crime through the prophet with a threat; and he himself washed it away by repenting. Yet likewise He, the desired of all nations, was enamoured of the Church bathing upon the roof, that is cleansing herself from the filth of the world, and in spiritual contemplation surmounting and trampling on her house of clay; and knowledge of her having been had at their first meeting, He afterwards killed the devil, apart from her, and joined her to himself in perpetual marriage. Therefore we hate the sin but will not quench the prophecy. Let us love that (illum) David, who is so greatly to be loved, who through mercy freed us from the devil; and let us also love that (istum) David who by the humility of penitence healed in himself so deep a wound of sin.”[38]

[Pg 46]Augustine’s interpretation of the story of David and Bathsheba was embodied verbatim in a work upon the Old Testament by Isidore of Seville.[39] The voluminous commentator Rabanus Maurus took the same, also verbatim, either from Isidore or Augustine.[40] His pupil, Walafrid Strabo, in his famous Glossa ordinaria, cited, probably from Rabanus, the first part of the passage as far as the reference to the well of living water from John’s Gospel. He abridged the matter somewhat, thus showing the smoothing compiler’s art which was to bring his Glossa ordinaria into such general use. Walafrid omitted the lines declaring that Uriah signified the devil. He did cite, however, again probably from Rabanus, part of a long passage, taken by Rabanus from Gregory the Great, where Bathsheba is declared to be the letter of the Law, united to a carnal people, which David (Christ) joins to himself in a spiritual sense. Uriah is that carnal people, to wit, the Jews.[41]

Thus far as to the comments on the narrative from the eleventh chapter of the Second Book of Samuel, otherwise called the Second Book of Kings. When Rabanus came to explain the sixth verse of the first chapter of Matthew—“And David begat Solomon from her who was the wife of Uriah”—he said: “Uriah indeed, that is interpreted ‘My light of God,’ signifies the devil, who fashions himself into an angel of light, daring to say to God: ‘My light of God,’ and ‘I will be like unto the Most High’ (Isaiah xiv.).”[42] Here pupil Walafrid follows his master, but adds: “Whose bewedded Church Christ became enamoured of from the terrace of His paternal majesty and joined her, made beautiful, to himself in matrimony.”[43]

With Rabanus and Walafrid, as with Isidore and the Venerable Bede who were the links between these Carolingians[Pg 47] and the Fathers, the interest in Scripture relates to its allegorical significance. Unmindful of the obvious and literal meaning of the text, they were unabashed by the incongruity of their allegorical interpretations.[44] Rabanus, for instance, had unbounded enthusiasm for Exodus, because of its rich symbolism:

“Among the Scriptures embraced in the Pentateuch of the Law, the Book of Exodus excels in merit; in it almost all the sacraments by which the present Church is founded, nourished, and ruled, are figuratively set forth. For there, through the corporeal exit of the children of Israel from the terrestrial Egypt, our exit from the spiritual Egypt is made clear. There again, through the crossing of the Red Sea and the submersion of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, the mystery of Baptism and the destruction of spiritual enemies are figured. There the immolation of the typifying lamb and the celebration of the Passover suggest the passion of the true Lamb and our redemption. There manna from heaven and drink from a rock are given in order to teach us to desire the heavenly bread and the drink of life. There precepts and judgments are delivered to the people of God upon a mountain in order that we may learn to be subject to supernal discipline. There the construction of the tabernacle and its vessels is ordered to take place with worship and sacrifices, that therein the adornment of the marvellous Church and the rites of spiritual sacrifices may be indicated. There the perfumes of incense and anointment are prepared, in order that the sanctification of the Holy Spirit and the mystery of sacred prayers may be commended to us.”[45]

The same commentator compiled a dictionary of allegories[Pg 48] entitled Allegoriae in universam sacram scripturam,[46] saying in his lumbering Preface:

“Whoever desires to arrive at an understanding of Holy Scripture should consider when he should take the narrative historically, when allegorically, when anagogically, and when tropologically. For these four ways of understanding, to wit, history, allegory, tropology, anagogy, we call the four daughters of wisdom, who cannot fully be searched out without a prior knowledge of these. Through them Mother Wisdom feeds her adopted children, giving to tender beginners drink in the milk of history; to those advancing in faith, the food of allegory; to the strenuous and sweating doers of good works, satiety in the savoury refection of tropology; and finally, to those raised from the depths through contempt of the earthly and through heavenly desire progressing towards the summit, the sober intoxication of theoretical contemplation in the wine of anagogy.... History, through the ensample which it gives of perfect men, incites the reader to the imitation of holiness; allegory, in the revelation of faith, leads to a knowledge of truth; tropology, in the instruction of morals, to a love of virtue; anagogy, in the display of everlasting joys, to a desire of eternal felicity. In the house of our soul, history lays the foundation, allegory erects the walls, anagogy puts on the roof, while tropology provides ornament, within through the disposition, without through the effect of the good work.”[47]

This work, alphabetically arranged, gave the allegorical significations of words used in the Vulgate, with examples; for instance:

Ager (field) is the world, as in the Gospel: ‘To the man who sowed good seed in his field,’ that is to Christ, who sows preaching through the world.

[Pg 49]Amicus (friend) is Christ, as in Canticles: ‘He is my friend, daughters of Jerusalem,’ for He loved His Church so much that He would die for her....

Ancilla (handmaid) is the Church, as in the Psalms: ‘Make safe the son of thine handmaid,’ that is me, who am a member of the Church. Ancilla, corruptible flesh, as in Genesis: ‘Cast out the handmaid and her son,’ that is, despise the flesh and its carnal fruit. Ancilla, preachers of the Church, as in Job: ‘He will bind her with his handmaids,’[48] because the Lord through His preachers conquered the devil. Ancilla, the effeminate minds of the Jews, as in Job: ‘Thy handmaids hold me as a stranger,’ because the effeminate minds of the Jews knew me through faith.[49] Ancilla, the lowly, as in Genesis, ‘and meal for his handmaids,’ because Holy Church affords spiritual refection to the lowly.

Aqua is the Holy Spirit, Christ, subtle wisdom, loquacity, temporal greed, baptism, the hidden speech of the prophets, the holy preaching of Christ, compunction, temporal prosperity, adversity, human knowledge, this world’s wealth, the literal meaning carnal pleasure, eternal reflection, holy angels, souls of the blessed, saints, humility’s lament, the devotions of the saints, sins of the elect which God condones, knowledge of the heretics, persecutions, unstable thoughts, the blandishments of temptations, the pleasures of the wicked, the punishments of hell.

Mons, mountain (in the singular) the Virgin Mary, montes (in the plural) angels, apostles, sublime precepts, the two Testaments, inner meditations, proud men, the Gentiles, evil spirits.”[50]

Thus Rabanus dragged into his compilation every meaning that had ever been ascribed to the words defined. In him and his contemporaries, the allegorical material, apart[Pg 50] from its utility for salvation, seems void of human interest or poetic quality, as yet unstirred by a breath of life. That was to enter, as allegory and all manner of symbolism began to form the temper of mediaeval thought, and became a chosen vessel of the mediaeval spirit in poetry and art. The vital change had taken place before the twelfth century had turned its first quarter.[51]

There flourished at this time a worthy monk named Honorius of Autun, also called “the Solitary.” It has been argued, and vehemently contradicted, that he was of German birth. At all events, monk he was and teacher at Autun. Those about him sought his instruction, and also requested him to put his discourses into writing for their use; their request reads as if at that time Honorius had retired from among them.[52] This is all that is known of the man who composed the most popular handbook of sermons in the Middle Ages. It was called the Speculum ecclesiae. Honorius may never have preached these sermons; but still his book exists with sermons for Sundays, saints’ days, and other Church festivals; a sermon also to be preached at Church dedications, and one “sermo generalis,” very useful, since it touched up all orders of society in succession, and a preacher might take or omit according to his audience. Before beginning, the preacher is directed to make the sign of the cross and invoke the Holy Spirit: he is admonished first to pronounce his text of Scripture in the Latin tongue, and then expound it in the vernacular;[53] he is instructed as to what portions of certain sermons should be used under special circumstances, and what parts he may omit in winter when the church is cold, or when in summer it is too hot; or this is left quite to his discretion: “Here make an end if you wish; but if time permits, continue thus.”

[Pg 51]Most of these sermons are short, and contain much excellent moral advice put simply and directly. They also make constant use of allegory, and evidently Honorius’s chief care in their composition was to expound his text allegorically and point the allegory’s application to the needs of his supposed audience. Neither he nor any man of his time devised many novel allegorical interpretations; but the old ones had at length become part of the mediaeval spirit and the regular means of apprehending the force and meaning of Scripture. Consequently Honorius handles his allegories more easily, and makes a more natural human application of them, than Rabanus or Walafrid had done. Sometimes the allegory seems to ignore the moral lesson of the literal facts; but while a smile may escape us in reading Honorius, the allegories in his sermons are rarely strained and shocking, likewise rarely dull. A general point from which he regards the narratives and institutions of the Old Testament is summed up in his statement, that for us Christ turned all provisions of the law into spiritual sacraments.[54] The whole Old Testament has pre-figurative significance and spiritual meaning; and likewise every narrative in the Gospels is spiritual.

Two or three examples will illustrate Honorius’s edifying way of using allegory. His sermon for the eleventh Sunday after Pentecost is typical of his manner. The text is from the thirty-first[55] Psalm: “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Opening with an exhortation to penitence and tears and almsgiving, the preacher turns to the self-righteous “whose obstinacy the Lord curbs in the Gospel for the day, telling how two went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, to wit, one of the Jewish clergy, the other a Publican.” After proceeding for a while with sound and obvious comment on the situation, Honorius says:

“By the two men who went up into the temple to pray, two peoples, the Jewish and the Gentile, are meant. The Pharisee who went close to the altar is the Jewish people, who possessed the[Pg 52] Sanctuary and the Ark. He tells aloud his merits in the temple, because in the world he boasts of his observance of the law.

“The Publican who stands afar off is the Gentile people, who were far off from the worship of God. He did not lift up his eyes to heaven, because the Gentile was agape at the things of earth. He beat his breast when he bewailed his error through penitence; and because he humbled himself in confession, God exalted him through pardon. Let us also, beloved, thus stand afar off, deeming ourselves unworthy of the holy sacraments and the companionship of the saints. Let us not lift up our eyes to heaven, but deem ourselves unworthy of it. Let us beat our breasts and punish our misdeeds with tears. Let us fall prostrate before God; and let us weep in the presence of the Lord who made us, so that He may turn our lament to joy, rend asunder our garb of mourning, and clothe us with happiness.”

Honorius lingers a moment with some further exhortations suggested by his parable, and then turns to the edification to be found in fables wisely composed by profane writers. Let not the congregation be scandalized; for the children of Israel despoiled the Egyptians of gold and gems and precious vesture, which they afterwards devoted to completing the tabernacle. Pious Christians spoil the Egyptians when they turn profane studies to spiritual account. The philosophers tell of a woman bound to a revolving wheel, her head now up now down. The wheel is this world’s glory, and the woman is that fortune which depends on it. Again, they tell of one who tries to roll a stone to the top of a mountain; but, near the top, it hurls the wretch prostrate with its weight and crashes back to the bottom; and again, of one whose liver is eaten by a vulture, and, when consumed, grows again. The man who pushes up the stone is he who toilsomely amasses dignities, to be plunged by them to hell; and he of the liver is the man upon whose heart lust feeds. From that pest, they say, Medusa sprang, with noble form exciting many to lust, but with her look turning them to stone. She is wantonness, who turns to stone the hearts of the lewd through their lustful pleasure. Perseus slew her, covering himself with his crystalline shield; for the strong man, gazing into virtue’s mirror, averts his heart’s countenance (i.e. from wantonness). The sword with which he kills her is the fear of everlasting fire.

Then, continues Honorius, we read of a boy brought up[Pg 53] by one of the Fathers in a hermitage; but as he grew to youth he was tickled with lust. The Father commanded him to go alone into the desert and pass forty days in fasting and prayer. When some twenty days had passed, there appeared a naked woman foul and stinking, who thrust herself upon him, and he, unable to endure her stench, began to repel her. At which she asked: “Why do you shudder at the sight of me for whom you burned? I am the image of lust, which appears sweet to men’s hearts. If you had not obeyed the Father, you would have been overthrown by me as others have been.” So he thanked God for snatching him from the spirit of fornication. Many other examples lead us to the path of life.

Honorius closes with the story of the “Three Fools,” observed by a certain Father: the first an Ethiopian who was unable to move a faggot of wood, which he would continually unbind and make still heavier by adding further sticks; the second, a man pouring water into a vase which had no bottom; and, thirdly, the two men who came bearing before them crosswise a beam of wood; as they neared the city gate neither would let the other precede him even a little, and so both remained without. The Ethiopian who adds to his insupportable faggot is he who continually increases his weight of sin, adding new sins to old ones unrepented of; he who pours water into the vase with no bottom is he who by his uncleanness loses the merit of his good acts; and the two who bear the beam crosswise are those bound by the yoke of Pride.[56]

Such are good examples of the queer stories to which preachers resorted. One notices that whatever be the source from which Honorius draws, his interest is always in the allegory found in the narratives. Another very apt example of his manner is his treatment of the story of the Good Samaritan, so often depicted on Gothic church windows. For us this parable carries an exhaustless wealth of direct application in human life; it was regarded very differently by Honorius and the glass painters, whose windows are a pictorial transcription of the first half of his sermon.[57]

[Pg 54]“Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly”—this is the text; and Honorius proceeds:

“Adam was the unhappy man who through the counsel of the wicked departed from his native land of Paradise and dragged all his descendants into this exile. He thus stood in the way of sinners, because he remained stable in sin. He sat ‘in the seat of the scornful,’ because by evil example he taught others to sin. But Christ arose, the blessed man who walketh in the counsel of the Father from the hall of heaven into prison after the lost servant. He did not walk in the counsel of the ungodly when the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world; He did not stand in the way of sinners, because He committed no sin; He did not sit in the seat of the scornful, since neither by word nor deed did He teach evil. Thus as that unhappy man drew all his carnal children into death, this blessed man brought all His sons to life. As He himself sets forth in the Gospel: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and robbers attacked and wounded him, stripped him and went away. And by chance there came that way a certain priest, who seeing him half-dead, crossed to the other side. Likewise a Levite passed by when he had seen him. But a Samaritan coming that same way, had compassion on the poor wretch, bound up his wounds and poured in oil and wine, and setting him on his own beast, brought him to an inn. The next day he gave the innkeeper two pence and asked that he care for him, and if more was needed He promised to repay the innkeeper on His return.’

“Surely man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho when our first parent from the joys of Paradise entered death’s eclipse. For Jericho, which means moon, designates the eclipse of our mortality. Whereby man fell among thieves, since a swarm of demons at once surrounded the exile. Wherefore also they despoiled him, since they stripped him of the riches of Paradise and the garment of immortality. They gave him wounds, for sins flowed in upon him. They left him half-dead, because dead in soul. The priest passed down the same way, as the Order of Patriarchs proceeded along the path of mortality. The priest left him wounded, having no power to aid the human race while himself sore wounded with sins. The Levite went that way, inasmuch as the Order of Prophets also had to tread the path of death. He too passed by the wounded man, because he could bear no human aid to the lost while himself groaning under the wounds of sin. The wretch half-dead was healed by the Samaritan, for the man set apart through Christ is made whole.

“Samaria was the chief city of the Israelitish kingdom whose[Pg 55] chiefs were led away to idolatry in Nineveh, and Gentiles were placed in her. The Jews abhorred their fellowship, making them a byword of malediction. So when reviling the Lord, they called Him a Samaritan. The Lord was the true Samaritan, being called guardian (custos) since the human race is guarded by Him. He went down this way when from heaven He came into this world. He saw the wounded traveller, inasmuch as He saw man held in misery and sin. He was moved with compassion for him, since for man He undergoes all pains. Approaching, He bound his wounds when, proclaiming eternal life, He taught man to cease from sin. He bound his wounds together with the two parts of the bandage when He quelled sins through two fears—the servile fear which forbids through penalties, and the filial fear which exhorts the holy to good works. He drew tight the lower part of the bandage when He struck men’s hearts with fear of hell. Their worm, He said, does not die, and their fire is not quenched. He drew tight the upper part when He taught the fear which belongs to the study of good. ‘The children of the kingdom,’ said He, ‘shall be cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ He poured in wine and oil when He taught repentance and pardon. He poured in wine when He said, ‘Repent ye’; He added oil when He said, ‘for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ He set him upon His beast when He bore our sins in His body on the Cross. He led him to the inn when He joined him to the supernal Church. The inn, in which living beings are assembled at night, is the present Church, where the just are harboured amid the darkness of this life until the Day of Eternity blows and the shadows of mortality give way.

“The next day He tendered the two pence. The first day was of death, the next of life. The day of death began with Adam, when all die. The day of life took its beginning from Christ, in whom all shall be made alive. Before Christ’s resurrection all men were travelling to death; since His resurrection all the faithful have been rising to life. He tendered the two pence the next day—when after His resurrection He taught that the two Testaments were fulfilled by the two precepts of love. He gave the pence to the innkeeper when He committed the doctrine of the law of life to the Order of Doctors. He directed him to tend the sick man when He commanded that the human race should be saved from sin. The stench drove the sick man from the inn, because this world’s tribulation drives the righteous to seek the things celestial. Two pence are given to the innkeeper when the Doctors are raised on high by Scriptural knowledge and temporal honour. If they should require more, He repays them on His return; for if they exemplify good preaching with good works, when the true Samaritan returns to judgment and leads him, aforetime wounded but now healed,[Pg 56] from the inn to the celestial mansion, He will repay the zealous stewards with eternal rewards.”[58]

Here Honorius proceeds to expound the allegory contained in the healing of the dumb man and the ten lepers, and closes his sermon with two narratives, one of a poor idiot who sang the Gloria without ceasing, and was seen in glory after death; the other of a lay nun (conversa) around whose last hours were shed sweet odours and a miraculous light, while those present heard the chant of heavenly voices.

The parables of Christ present types which we may apply in life according to circumstances. In the concrete instance of the parable we find the universal, and we deem Christ meant it so. Thus we also view the parables as symbols, which they were. Honorius, with the vast company of mediaeval and patristic expounders, ordinarily directs the symbolism of the parables in a special mode, whereby—like the stories of the Old Testament—they become figurative of Christ and the needy soul of man, or figurative of the Christian dispensation with its historical antecedents and its Day of Judgment at the end.

The like may be said of Honorius’s allegorical interpretation of Greek legends. These ancient stories have the perennial youth of human charm and meaning ever new. They had been good old stories to the Greeks, and then acquired further intendment as later men discerned a broader symbolism in them. Even in classic times, Homer’s stories had been turned to allegories, philosophers and critics sometimes finding in them a spiritual significance not unlike that which the same tales may bear for us. But with this difference: the later Greeks usually were trying to explain away the somewhat untrammelled ways of the Homeric pantheon, and therefore maintained that Homer’s stories were composed as allegories, the wise and mystic poet choosing thus to veil his meaning. To-day we find the clarity of daybreak in Homer’s tales, and if we make symbols of them we know the symbolism is not his but ours. Honorius chooses to think that allegory had always lain in the old story; he will not deem it the invention of himself or other[Pg 57] Christian writers. Here his attitude is not unlike that of the apologetic Greek critics. But his interpretations are apt to differ from theirs as well as from our own. For his symbolism tends to abandon the broadly human, and to become, like the mediaeval Biblical interpretations, figurative of the tenets of the Christian Faith.

There is an interesting example of this in the sermon for Septuagesima Sunday, which was written on a somewhat blind text from the twenty-eighth chapter of Job. Honorius proceeds expounding it through a number of strained allegories, which he doubtless drew from Gregory’s Moralia; for that great pope was the recognized expositor of Job, and the Book of Job was simply Gregory through all the Middle Ages. Perhaps Honorius felt that this sermon was rather soporific. At all events he stops in the middle to give a piece of advice to the supposed preacher: “Often put something of this kind in your sermon; for so you will relieve the tedium.” And he continues thus:

“Brethren, on this holy day there is much to say which I must pass over in silence, lest disgusted you should wish to leave the church before the end. For some of you have come far and must go a long way to reach your houses. Or perhaps, some have guests at home, or crying babies; or others are not swift and have to go elsewhere, while to some a bodily infirmity brings uneasiness lest they expose themselves. So I omit much for everybody’s sake, but still would say a few words.

“Because to-day, beloved, we have laid aside the song of gladness and taken up the song of sadness, I would briefly tell you something from the books of the pagans, to show how you should reject the melody of this world’s pleasures in order that hereafter with the angels you may make sweet harmonies in heaven. For one should pick up a gem found in dung and set it as a kingly ornament; thus if we find anything useful in pagan books we should turn it to the building up of the Church, which is Christ’s spouse. The wise of this world write that there were three Syrens in an island of the sea, who used to chant the sweetest song in divers tones. One sang, another piped, the third played upon a lyre. They had the faces of women, the talons and wings of birds. They stopped all passing ships with the sweetness of their song; they rent the sailors heavy with sleep; they sank the ships in the brine. When a certain duke, Ulysses, had to sail by their island, he ordered his comrades to bind him to the mast and stuff their ears with wax. Thus he escaped the peril unharmed, and plunged[Pg 58] the Syrens in the waves. These, beloved, are mysteries, although written by the enemies of Christ. By the sea is to be understood this age which rolls beneath the unceasing blasts of tribulations. The island is earth’s joy, which is intercepted by crowding pains, as the shore is beat upon by crowding waves. The three Syrens who with sweet caressing song overturn the navigators in sleep, are three delights which soften men’s hearts for vice and lead them into the sleep of death. She who sings with human voice is Avarice, and to her hearers thus she tunes her song: ‘Thou shouldst get together much, so as to be able to spread wide thy fame, and also visit the Lord’s sepulchre and other places, restore churches, aid the poor and thy relatives as well.’ With such baneful song she charms the miser’s heart, until the sleep of death oppresses him. Then she tears his flesh, the wave devours the ship, and the wretch by fierce pains is waked from his riches and plunged in eternal flame. She who plays upon the pipe is Vainglory (Jactantia), and thus she pipes her lay for hers: ‘Thou art in thy youth, and noble; make thyself appear glorious. Spare no enemies, but kill them all when able. Then people will call thee a good knight.’ Again will she chant: ‘Thou shouldst win Jerusalem, and give great alms. Then thou wilt be famous, and wilt be called good by all.’ To the lay brethren (conversis) she sings: ‘Thou must fast and pray always, singing with loud voice. Then wilt thou hear thyself lauded as a saint by all.’ Such song with vain heart she makes resound till the whirlpool of death devours the wretch emptied of worth.

“She who sings to a lyre is Wantonness (Luxuria), and she chants melodies like these to her parasites: ‘Thou art in thy youth; now is the time to sport with the girls—old age will do to reform in. Here is one with a fine figure; this one is rich; from this one you would gain much. There is plenty of time to save your soul.’ In such way she melts the hearts of the wanton till Cocytus’s waves engulf them suddenly tripped by death.

“They have the faces of women, because nothing so estranges man from God as the love of women. They have wings of birds, because the desire of worldlings is always unstable, their appetites now craving one thing, and again their lust flying to another object. They have also the talons of birds, because they tear their victims as they snatch them away to the torments of hell. Ulysses is called Wise. Unharmed he steers his course by the island, because the truly wise Christian swims over the sea of this world, in the ship of the Church. By the fear of God he binds himself to the mast of the ship, that is, to the cross of Christ; with wax, that is with the incarnation of Christ, he seals the ears of his comrades, that they may turn their hearts from lusts and vices and yearn only for heavenly things. The Syrens are submerged, because he is[Pg 59] protected from their lusts by the strength of the Spirit. Unharmed the voyagers avoid the peril, inasmuch as through victory they reach the joys of the saints.”[59]



[Pg 60]



Just as the Middle Ages followed the allegorical interpretation of Scripture elaborated by the Church Fathers, so they also accepted, and even made more precise, the patristic inculcation of the efficacy of such most potent symbols as the water of baptism and the bread and wine transubstantiated in the Eucharist.[60] Passing onward from these mighty bases of conviction, the mediaeval genius made fertile use of allegory in the polemics of Church and State, and exalted the symbolical principle into an ultimate explanation of the visible universe.

Notable was the career of allegory in politics. Throughout the long struggle of the Papacy with the Empire and other secular monarchies, arguments drawn from allegory never ceased to carry weight. A very shibboleth was the witness of the “two swords” (Luke xxii. 38), both of which, the temporal as well as spiritual, the Church held to have been entrusted to her keeping for the ordering of earthly affairs, to the end that men’s souls should be saved. Still more fluid was the argumentative nostrum of mankind conceived as an Organism, or animate body (unum corpus, corpus mysticum). This metaphor was found in more than one of the Latin classics; but patristic and mediaeval writers took it from the works of Paul.[61] The likeness of the human body to the body politic or ecclesiastic was carried out[Pg 61] in every imaginable detail, and used acutely or absurdly by politicians and schoolmen from the eleventh century onward.[62]

We turn to the symbolical explanation of the universe. In the first half of the twelfth century, a profoundly meditative soul, Hugo of St. Victor by name, attempted a systematic exposition of the symbolical or sacramental plan inhering in God’s scheme of creation. Of the man, as with so many monks and schoolmen whose names and works survive, little is known beyond the presentation of his personality afforded by his writings. He taught in the monastic school of St. Victor, a community that had a story, with which may be connected the scanty facts of the short and happy pilgrimage to God, which made Hugo’s life on earth.[63]

When William of Champeaux, according to Abaelard’s account, was routed from his logical positions in the cathedral school of Paris,[64] he withdrew from the school and from the city to the quiet of a secluded spot on the left bank of the Seine, not far distant from Notre-Dame. Here was an ancient chapel dedicated to Saint-Victor, and here William, with some companions, organized themselves into a monastic community according to the rule of the canons of St. Augustine. This was in 1108. If for a time William laid aside his studies and lecturing, he soon resumed them at the solicitations of his scholars, joined to those of his friend Hildebert, Bishop of Le Mans.[65] And so the famous school of Saint-Victor began. William remained there only four years, being made Bishop of Chalons in 1112, and thereafter figuring prominently in Church councils, frequent in France at this epoch.

[Pg 62]Under William’s disciple and successor, Gilduin, the community flourished and increased. King Louis VI., whose confessor was Gilduin himself, endowed it liberally, and other donors were not lacking. Saint-Victor became rich, and its fame for learning and holiness spread far and wide.[66] Abbot Gilduin lived to see more than forty houses of monks or regular canons[67] flourishing as dependencies of Saint-Victor. He died in 1155, some years after the death of the young man whose scholarship and genius was the pride of the Victorine community.

Notwithstanding a statement in an old manuscript, that Hugo was born near Ypres in Flanders, the ancient tradition of Saint-Victor, confirmed by the records of the cathedral of Halberstadt, shows him to have been a son of the Count of Blankemberg, and born at Hartingam in Saxony.[68] His uncle Reinhard was Bishop of Halberstadt, where his great-uncle, named Hugo like himself, was archdeacon. Reinhard had been a pupil of William of Champeaux at Saint-Victor, and after becoming bishop continued to cherish a profound esteem for him. The young Hugo renounced his inheritance and entered a monastery not far from Halberstadt; but soon, in view of the disturbed affairs of Saxony, his uncle Reinhard urged him to go and pursue his studies at Saint-Victor. The young man persuaded his great-uncle Hugo to accompany him. By circuitous routes, visiting various places of pious interest on the way, the two reached Saint-Victor, where they were received with all honour by the abbot Gilduin. This was not far from the year 1115, and Hugo was about twenty at the time. He was already an accomplished scholar, and doubtless it is to his previous[Pg 63] studies that he refers when he speaks as follows in his book of elementary instruction, called the Didascalicon:

“I dare say that I never despised anything pertaining to learning, and learned much that might strike others as light and vain. I practised memorizing the names of everything I saw or heard of, thinking that I could not properly study the nature of things unless I knew their names. Daily I examined my notes of topics, that I might hold in my memory every proposition, with the questions, objections, and solutions. I would inform myself as to controversies and consider the proper order of the argument on either side, carefully distinguishing what pertained to the office of rhetoric, oratory, and sophistry. I set problems of numbers; I drew figures on the pavement with charcoal, and with the figure before me I demonstrated the different qualities of the obtuse, the acute and the right angle, and also of the square. Often I watched out the nocturnal horoscope through winter nights. Often I strung my harp (Saepe ad numerum protensum in ligno magadam ducere solebam) that I might perceive the different sounds and likewise delight my mind with the sweet notes. All these were boyish occupations (puerilia) but not useless. Nor does it burden my stomach to know them now.”[69]

Not long after Hugo’s arrival at Saint-Victor he began to teach at the monastery school, and upon the death of its director, in 1133, succeeded to the office, which he held until his death in 1141.[70] Colourless and grey are the outer facts of a monk’s life, counting but little. The soul of a Hugo of Saint-Victor did not soil itself with any interest in the pleasures of the world: “He is not solitary with whom is God, nor is the power of joy extinguished because his appetite is kept from things abject and vile. He rather does himself an injustice who admits to the society of his joy what is disgraceful or unworthy of his love.”[71]

Hugo belonged to the aristocracy of contemplative piety, with its scorn of whatever lies without the pale of the soul’s[Pg 64] companionship with God. In his independent way he followed Augustine, and Augustine’s Platonism, which was so largely the Neo-Platonism of Plotinus and Porphyry. He also followed the real Plato speaking in the Timaeus, with which he was acquainted. Plato would have nothing to do with allegorical interpretation as a defence of Homer’s gods; but he could himself make very pretty allegories, and his theory of ideas as at once types and creative intelligences lent itself to Christian systems of symbolism. In this way he was a spiritual ancestor of Hugo, who found in God the type-ideas of all things that He created. Moreover, if not Plato, at least his spiritual children—Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Plotinus—recognized that the highest truths must be known in modes transcending reason and its syllogisms, although these were the necessary avenues of approach. Hugo likewise regarded rational knowledge as but the path by which the soul ascends to the plateau of contemplation. The general aspects of his philosophy will be considered in a later chapter. Here he is to be viewed as a mediaeval symbolist, upon whom pressed a sense of the symbolism of all visible things. An examination of his great De sacramentis Christianae fidei will disclose that with Hugo the material creation in its deepest verity is a symbol; that Scripture, besides its literal meaning, is allegory from Genesis to Revelation; that the means of salvation provided by the Church are sacramental, and thus essentially symbolical, consisting of perfected and potent symbols which have been shadowed forth in the unperfected sacramental character of all God’s works from the beginning.[72]

Hugo’s little Preface (praefatiuncula) mentions certain requests made to him to write a book on the Sacraments. In undertaking it, he proposes to present in better form many things dictated from time to time rather negligently. Whatever he has taken from his previous writings he has revised as seemed best. Should there appear any inconsistency between what he may have said elsewhere and the language of the present work, he begs the reader to regard the present as the better form of statement. His[Pg 65] method will be to treat his matter in the order of time; and to this end his work is divided into two Books. The first discusses the subject from the Beginning of the World until the Incarnation of the Word; the second continues it from the Incarnation to the final Consummation of all things. He explains that as he has elsewhere spoken at length upon the primary or historical meaning of Holy Writ,[73] he will devote himself here rather to its secondary or allegorical significance.

Hugo further explains the subject of his treatise in a Prologue:

“The work of man’s restoration is the subject-matter (materia) of all the Scriptures. There are two works, the work of foundation and the work of restoration, which include everything whatsoever. The former is the creation of the world with all its elements; the latter is the incarnation of the Word with all its sacraments, those which went before from the beginning and those which follow even to the end of the world. For the incarnate Word is our King, who came into this world to fight the devil. And all the saints who were before His coming, were as soldiers going before His face; and those who have come and will come after, until the end of the world, are as soldiers who follow their king. He is the King in the centre of His army, advancing girt by His troops. And although in such a multitude divers shapes of arms appear in the sacraments and observances of those who precede and come after, yet all are soldiers under one king and follow one banner; they pursue one enemy and with one victory are crowned. In all of this may be observed the work of restoration.

“Scripture gives first a brief account of the work of creation. For it could not aptly show how man was restored unless it had previously explained how he had fallen; nor could it show how he had fallen, without first showing how God had made him, for which in turn it was necessary to set forth the creation of the whole world, because the world was made for man. The spirit was created for God’s sake; the body for the spirit’s sake, and the world for the body’s sake, so that the spirit might be subject to God, the body to the spirit, and the world to the body. In this order, therefore, Holy Scripture describes first the creation of the world which was[Pg 66] made for man; then it tells how man was made and set in the way of righteousness and discipline; after that, how man fell; and finally how he was restored (reparatus).”

In these first little chapters of his Prologue, Hugo has grouped his topics suggestively. The world was made for man, and therefore the account of its creation is needed in order to understand man. Moreover, that man’s body exists for his spirit’s sake, at once suggests that a significance beyond the literal meaning is likely to dwell in that account of the material creation which enables us to understand man. The soul needs instruction and guidance; and God in creating the world for man surely had in view his most important interests, which were not those of his mortal body, but those of his soul. So the creation of the world subserves man’s spiritual interests, and the divine account of it carries spiritual instruction. The allegorical significance of the world’s creation, which answers to man’s spiritual needs, is as veritable and real as the facts of the world’s material foundation, which answers to the needs of his body. Thus symbolism is rooted in the character and purpose of the material creation; it lies in the God-implanted nature of things; therefore the allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures corresponds to their deepest meaning and the revealed plan of God.

These principles underlie Hugo’s exposition of the Christian sacraments, whose unperfected prototypes existed in the work of the Creation. No fact of sacred history, no single righteous pre-Christian observance, was unaffiliated with them. An adequate understanding of their nature involves a full knowledge not only of Christian doctrine, but of all other knowledge profitable to men—as Hugo clearly indicates in the remaining portion of his Prologue:

“Whence it appears how much divine Scripture in subtle profundity surpasses all other writings, not only in its matter but in the way of treating it. In other writings the words alone carry meaning: in Scripture not only the words, but the things may mean something. Wherefore just as a knowledge of the words is needed in order to know what things are signified, so a knowledge of the things is needed in order to determine their mystical signification of other things which have been or ought to be done. The[Pg 67] knowledge of words falls under two heads: expression, and the substance of their meaning. Grammar relates only to expression, dialectic only to meaning, while rhetoric relates to both. A knowledge of things requires a knowledge of their form and of their nature. Form consists in external configuration, nature in internal quality. Form is treated as number, to which arithmetic applies; or as proportion, to which music applies; or as dimension, to which geometry applies; or as motion, to which pertains astronomy. But physics (physica) looks to the inner nature of things.

“It follows that all the natural arts serve divine science, and the lower knowledge rightly ordered leads to the higher. History, i.e. the historical meaning, is that in which words signify things, and its servants, as already said, are the three sciences, grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. When, however, things signify facts mystically, we have allegory; and when things mystically signify what ought to be done, we have tropology. These two are served by arithmetic, music, geometry, astronomy, and physics. Above and beyond all is that divine something to which divine Scripture leads, either in allegory or tropology. Of this the one part (which is in allegory) is right faith, and the other (which is in tropology) is good conduct: in these consist knowledge of truth and love of virtue, and this is the true restoration of man.”[74]

Hugo has now stated his position. The rationale of the world’s creation lies in the nature of man. The Seven Liberal Arts, and incidentally all human knowledge, in handmaidenly manner, promote an understanding of man as well as of the saving teaching contained in Scripture. This was the common mediaeval view; but Hugo proves it through application of the principles of symbolism and allegorical interpretation. By these instruments he orders the arts and sciences according to their value in his Christian system, and makes all human knowledge subserve the intellectual economy of the soul’s progress to God.

An exposition of the Work of the Six Days opens the body of Hugo’s treatise. God created all things from nothing, and at once. His creation was at first unformed; not absolutely formless, but in the form of confusion, out of which in the six days He wrought the form of ordered disposition. The first creation included the matter of corporeal[Pg 68] things and (in the angelic nature) the essence of things invisible; for the rational creature may be said to be unformed until it take form through turning unto its Creator, whereby it gains beauty and blessedness from Him through the conversion which is of love. Thus the matter of every corporeal thing which God afterwards made, existed from the time of His first creation, and likewise the image of everything invisible. For although new souls are still created every day, their image existed previously in the angelic spirits.

Then God made light, the unformed material of which He had created in the beginning.

“And at the very moment when light was visibly and corporeally separated from darkness, the good angels were invisibly set apart from the wicked angels who were falling in the darkness of sin. The good were illumined and converted to the light of righteousness, that they might be light and not darkness. Thus we ought to perceive a consonance in the works of God, the visible work conforming to the issue of the invisible in such wise that the Wisdom which worked in both may in the former instruct by an example and in the latter execute judgment.”

The severance of light from darkness is the material example of how God executes judgment in dividing the good from the evil. In this visible work of God a “sacrament” is discernible, since every soul, so long as it is in sin, is in darkness and confusion. All the visible works of God offer spiritual lessons (spiritualia praeferunt documenta). They have sacramental qualities, and yet are not perfected and completed sacraments, as will hereafter appear from Hugo’s definition.

Following the order of creation, Hugo now speaks of the firmament which God set in the midst of the waters to divide them:

“He who believes that this was made for his sake will not look for the reason of it outside of himself. For it all was made in the image of the world within him; the earth which is below, is the sensual nature of man, and the heaven above is the purity of his intelligence quickening to immortal life.”

The rational and unseen are a world as well as the material and visible. The sacramental quality of the[Pg 69] material world lies in its correspondence to the unseen world. When Hugo speaks of the “sacramenta” in the creation of light and the waters divided by the firmament, he means that in addition to their material nature as light and water, they are essentially symbols. Their symbolism is as veritably part of their nature as the symbolical character of the Eucharist is part of the nature of the consecrated bread and wine. The sacraments are among the deepest verities of the Christian Faith. And the same representative verity that exists in them, exists, in less perfected mode, throughout God’s entire creation. So the argument carries out the principles of the sacraments and the principles of symbolism to a full explanation of the world; and Hugo’s work upon the Sacraments presents his theory of the universe.

“Many other mysteries,” says Hugo, closing the first “Part” of his first Book, “could be pointed out in the work of the creation. But we briefly speak of these matters as a suitable approach to the subject set before us. For our purpose is to treat of the sacrament of man’s redemption. The work of creation was completed in six days, the work of restoration in six ages. The latter work we define as the Incarnation of the Word and what in and through the flesh the Word performed, with all His sacraments, both those which from the beginning prefigured the Incarnation and those which follow to declare and preach it till the end.”

It is unnecessary to follow Hugo through the discussion, upon which he now enters, of the will, knowledge, and power of the Trinity, or through his consideration of the knowledge which man may have of God. In Part V. of the first Book, he considers the creation of angels, their qualities and nature, and the reasons why a part of them fell. With Part VI. the creation of man is reached, which Hugo shows to have been causally prior, though later in time, to the creation of the world which God made for man. From love God created rational creatures, the angels purely spiritual, and man a spirit clothed with earth.[75] Hugo[Pg 70] considers the corporeal as well as the spiritual nature and qualities of man, and his condition before the Fall. The seventh Part is devoted to the Fall itself, and discusses its character and sinfulness.

At length, in the eighth Part, Hugo reaches the true subject of his treatise, the restoration of man. Man’s first sin of pride was followed by a triple punishment, consisting in a penalty, and two entailed defects, the penalty being bodily mortality, the defects carnal concupiscence and mental ignorance.

“Regarding his reparation three matters are to be considered, the time, the place, the remedy. The time is the present life, from the beginning to the end of the world. The place is this world.[76] The remedy is threefold, and consists in faith, the sacraments, and good works. Long is the time, that man may not be taken unprepared. Hard is the place, that the transgressor may be castigated. Efficacious is the remedy, that the sick one may be healed.”

Hugo then sets forth the situation, the case in court as it were, to which God, the devil, and man, are the three parties. In this trial

“... the devil is convicted of an injury to God in that he seduced God’s servant by fraud and holds him by violence. Man also is convicted of an injury to God in that he despised His command and wickedly gave himself to evil servitude. Likewise the devil is convicted of an injury toward man, in first deceiving him and then bringing evil upon him. The devil holds man unjustly, though man is justly held.”

Since the devil’s case against man was unjust, man might defeat his lordship; but he needed an advocate (patronus), which could be only God. God, angry at man’s sin, did not wish to undertake man’s cause. He must be placated; and man had no equivalent to offer for the injury he had done Him; for he had deserted God when rational and innocent, and could deliver himself back to God only as an irrational and sinful creature. Therefore, in order that[Pg 71] man might have wherewithal to placate God, God through mercy gave man a man whom man might give in place of him who had sinned. God became man for man and as man gave himself for man. Thus He who had been man’s Creator became also his Redeemer. God might have redeemed man in some other way, but took the way of human nature as best suited to man’s weakness.

After our first parent had been exiled from Paradise for his sin, the devil possessed him violently. But God’s providence tempered justice with mercy, and from the penalty itself prepared a remedy.

“He set for man as a sign the sacraments of his salvation, in order that whoever would apprehend them with right faith and firm hope, might, though under the yoke, have some fellowship with freedom. He set His edict informing and instructing man, so that whoever should elect to expect a saviour, should prove his vow of election in observance of the sacraments. The devil also set his sacraments, that he might know and possess his own more surely. The human race was at once divided into opposite parties, some accepting the devil’s sacraments and some the sacraments of Christ.... Hence it is clear, that from the beginning there were Christians in fact, if not in name.”

Hugo proceeds to show that the time of the institution of the sacraments began when our first parent, expelled from Paradise, was subjected to the exile of this mortal life, with all his posterity until the end.

“As soon as man had fallen from his first state of incorruption, he began to be sick, in body through his mortality, in mind through his iniquity. Forthwith God prepared the medicine of his reparation through His sacraments. In divers times and places God presented these for man’s healing, as reason and the cause demanded, some of them before the Law, some under the Law and some under grace. Though different in form they had the one effect and accomplished the one health. If any one inquires the period of their appointment he may know that as long as there is disease so long is the time of the medicine. The present life, from the beginning to the end of the world, is the time of sickness and the time of the remedy. When a sacrament has fulfilled its time it ceases, and others take its place, to bring about that same health. These in turn have been succeeded at last by others, which are not to be superseded.”

[Pg 72]Having followed Hugo’s plan thus far, one sees why it is only at the commencement of the ninth Part of his first Book that he reaches the definition and discussion of those final and enduring sacraments which followed the Incarnation. He has hitherto been developing his theme, and now takes up its very essence. Laying out the matter scholastically, he says “there are four things to consider: first, what is a sacrament; second, why they were instituted; third, what may be the material of each sacrament, in which it is made and sanctified; and fourth, how many sacraments there are. This is the definition, cause, material, and classification.”

Proceeding to the definition, he says that the doctors have briefly described a sacrament as the token of the sacred substance (sacrae rei signum).

“For as there is body and soul in man, and in Scripture the letter and the sense, so in every sacrament there is the visible external which may be handled and the invisible within, which is believed and taught. The material external is the sacrament, and the invisible and spiritual is the sacrament’s substance (res) or virtus. The external is handled and sanctified; that is the signum of the spiritual grace, which is the sacrament’s res and is invisibly apprehended.”

Having thus explained the old definition, Hugo objects to it on the ground that not every signum rei sacrae is a sacrament; the letters of the sacred text and the pictures of holy things are signa rei sacrae, and yet are not sacraments. He therefore offers the following definition as adequate:

“The sacrament is the corporeal or material element set out sensibly, representing from its similitude, signifying from its institution, and containing from its sanctification, some invisible and spiritual grace.”[77]

This, he maintains, is a perfect definition, since all sacraments possess these three qualities, and whatever lacks them cannot properly be called a sacrament. As an example he instances the baptismal water:

[Pg 73]“There is the visible element of water, which is the sacrament; and these three are found in one: representation from similitude, significance from appointment, virtue from sanctification. The similitude is from creation, the appointment from dispensation, the sanctification from benediction. The first is imparted to it through the Creator, the second is added through the Saviour, the third is given through the administrator.”[78]

Passing to the second consideration, Hugo finds that the sacraments were instituted with threefold purpose, for man’s humiliation, instruction, and discipline or exercise. The man contemning them cannot be saved. Yet God has saved many without them, as Jeremiah was sanctified in the womb, and John the Baptist, and those who were righteous under the natural law. “For those who under the natural law possessed the substance (res) of the sacrament in right faith and charity, did not to their damnation lack the sacrament.” And Hugo warns whoever might take a narrower view, to beware lest in honouring God’s sacraments, His power and goodness be made of no avail. “Dost thou tell me that he who has not the sacraments of God cannot be saved? I tell thee that he who has the virtue of the sacraments of God cannot perish. Which is greater, the sacrament or the virtue of the sacrament—water or faith? If thou wouldst speak truly, answer, ‘faith.’” One notes that the twelfth century had its broad-mindedness, as well as the twentieth.

While passing on discursively to consider the classification of the sacraments, Hugo considers many matters,[79] and then opens his treatment of the sacraments of the natural law with a recapitulation:

“The sacraments from the beginning were instituted for the restoration and healing of man, some under the natural law, some[Pg 74] under the written law, and others under grace. Those which are later in time will be found more worthy means of spiritual grace. For all those sacraments of the former time, under the natural or the written law, were signs and figures of those now appointed under grace. The spiritual effect of the former in their time was wrought through the virtue and sanctification drawn from the latter. If any one therefore would deny that those prior sacraments were effectual for sanctification, he does not seem to me to judge aright.”[80]

The sacraments of the natural law were as the umbra veritatis; those of the written law as the imago vel figura veritatis; but those under grace are the corpus veritatis.[81] The written law, though given fully only through Moses, began with Abraham, upon whom circumcision was enjoined as a sacrament and sign of separation from the heathen peoples. In obedience to its precepts lies the merit, in its promises lies the reward, while its sacraments aid men to fulfil its precepts and obtain its reward. Hugo discusses the sacraments of circumcision and burnt-offerings which were necessary for the remission of sins; then those which exercised the faithful people in devotion—the peace-offering is an example; and again those which aided the people to cultivate piety, as the tabernacle and its utensils.

Hugo’s second Book, which makes the second half of his work, is devoted to the “time of grace” inaugurated by the Incarnation. It treats in detail the Christian sacraments and other topics of the Faith, down to the Last Judgment, when the wicked are cast into hell, and the blessed enter upon eternal life, where God will be seen eternally, praised without weariness, and loved without satiety. This blessed lot flows from the grace of the salvation brought by Christ, and is dependent on the sacraments, the enduring means of grace. On their part, the sacraments, whatever more they are, are symbols, in essence and function connected with the[Pg 75] symbolical nature of God’s creation, with the prefigurative significance of the fortunes of God’s chosen people until the coming of Christ, with the import and symbolism of Christ’s life and teachings, and with the symbolism inherent in the organization and building up of Christ’s holy Church. Symbolism and allegory are made part of the constitution of the world and man; they connect man’s body and environment with his spirit, and link the life of this world with the life to come. Hugo has thus grounded and established symbolism in the purposes of God, in the universal scheme of things, and in the nature and destinies of man.[82]



[Pg 76]



I. Guilelmus Durandus and Vincent of Beauvais.
II. The Hymns of Adam of St. Victor and the Anticlaudianus
of Alanus of Lille.

Under sanction of Scriptural interpretation and the sacraments, allegory and symbolism became accepted principles of spiritual verity, sources of political argument, and modes of transcendental truth. They penetrated the Liturgy, charging every sentence and ceremonial act with saving significance and power; and as plastic influences they imparted form and matter to religious art and poetry, where they had indeed been potent from the beginning.



In the early Church the office of the Mass, the ordination of priests, and the dedication of churches were not charged with the elaborate symbolism carried by these ceremonies in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries,[83] when the Liturgy, or speaking more specifically, the Mass, had become symbolical from the introit to the last benediction; and Gothic sculpture and glass painting, which were its visible illustration, had been impressed with corresponding allegory. Mediaeval liturgic lore is summed up by Guilelmus Durandus in his Rationale divinorum officiorum, which was composed in the latter part of the thirteenth century, and contains much that is mirrored in the art of the French cathedrals. It is[Pg 77] impossible to review the elaborate symbolical significance of the Mass as set forth in the authoritative work of one who was a bishop, theologian, jurist, and papal regent.[84] But a little of it may be given.

The office of the Mass, says Durandus, is devised with great forethought, so as to contain the major part of what was accomplished by and in Christ from the time when He descended from heaven to the time when He ascended into heaven. In the sacrifice of the Mass all the sacrifices of the Ancient Law are represented and superseded. It may be celebrated at the third hour, because then, according to Mark, Christ ascended the cross, and at that hour also the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles in tongues of fire; or at the sixth hour, when, according to Matthew, Christ was crucified; or at the ninth hour, when on the cross He gave up His spirit.

The first part of the Mass begins with the introit. Its antiphonal chanting signifies the aspirations and deeds, the prayers and praises of the patriarchs and prophets who were looking for the coming of the Son of God. The chorus of chanting clergy represents this yearning multitude of saints of the Ancient Law. The bishop, clad in his sacred vestments,[85] at the end of the procession, emerging from the sacristy and advancing to the altar, represents Christ, the expected of the nations, emerging from the Virgin’s womb and entering the world, even as the Spouse from His secret chamber. The seven lights borne before him on the chief festivals are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit descending upon the head of Christ. The two acolytes preceding him signify the Law and the Prophets, shown in Moses and Elias who appeared with Christ on Mount Tabor. The four who bear the canopy are the four evangelists, declaring the Gospel. The bishop takes his seat and lays aside his mitre. He is silent, as was Christ during His early[Pg 78] years. The Book of the Gospels lies closed before him. Around him in the company of clergy are represented the Magi and others.

The services proceed, every word and act filled with symbolic import. The reading of the Epistle is reached—that is the preaching of John the Baptist, who preaches only to the Jews; so the reader turns to the north, the region of the Ancient Law. The reading ended, he bows before the bishop, as the Baptist humbled himself before Christ.

After the Epistle comes the Gradual or responsorium, which relates to penitence and the works of the active life. The Baptist is still the main figure, until the solemn moment when the Gospel is read, which signifies the beginning of Christ’s preaching. The Creed follows the Gospel, as faith follows the preaching of the truth. Its twelve parts refer to the calling of the twelve apostles. Then the bishop begins his sermon; that is to say, after the calling of the Twelve, the Word of God is preached to the people, and it henceforth behoves the Church to hold fast to the Creed which has just been recited.[86]

The authoritative allegorizing of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries extended the symbolism of the Mass to the edifice in which it was celebrated; as the Rationale sets forth in its opening chapter entitled “De ecclesia et eius partibus.” There it is shown that the corporeal church is the edifice, while the Church, spiritually taken, signifies the faithful people drawn together from all sorts of men as the edifice is constructed of all sorts of stones. The various names ecclesia, synagogue, basilica, and tabernacle are explained; and then why the Church is called the Body of Christ, and also Virgin, also Spouse, Mother, Daughter, Widow, and indeed Meretrix, as it shuts its bosom against no one seeking it. The form of the church conforms to that of Solomon’s temple, in the anterior part of which the people heard and prayed, while the clergy prayed and preached, gave thanks and ministered, in the sanctuary or sacred place. Solomon’s temple in turn was modelled on the Tabernacle of the Exodus, which,[Pg 79] because it was constructed on a journey, is the type of the world which passes away and the lust thereof. It was made with the four colours of the arch of heaven, as the world consists of the four elements. Since God is in the world, He is in the tabernacle (which also means the Church militant) and in the midst of the faithful congregation. The anterior part of the tabernacle, where the people sacrificed, is also the Vita activa, in which the laity labour in neighbourly love; and the portion where the Levites ministered is the Vita contemplativa.

The church should be erected in the following manner: the place of its foundation should be made ready—well-founded is the house of the Lord upon a rock—and the bishop or licensed priest should sprinkle it with holy water to dispel the demons, and should lay the first stone, on which should be carved a cross. The head of the church, that is the chancel, should be set toward the rising sun at the time of the equinox. Now if the Jews were commanded to build walls for Jerusalem, how much more ought we to build the walls of our churches? The material church signifies the Holy Church built of living stones in heaven, with Christ the corner-stone, upon which are set the foundations of Apostles and Prophets. The walls above are the Jews and Gentiles, who believing come to Christ from the four quarters of the world. The faithful people predestined to life are the stones thereof.

The mortar in which the stones are set is made of lime, sand, and water. Lime is fervent love, which takes to itself the sand, that is, earthly toil; then water, which is the Spirit, unites the lime and sand. As the stones of the wall would have no stability without the mortar, so men cannot be set in the walls of the heavenly Jerusalem without love, which the Holy Spirit brings. The stones of the wall are hewn and squared, which means sanctified and made clean. Some stones are borne, but do not themselves bear any burden, and these are the feeble in the Church. Other stones are borne, yet also bear; while still others bear, but are not borne, save by Christ alone, the one foundation; and the last are the perfect.

The Jews were subject to hostile attack while building[Pg 80] the walls of Jerusalem,[87] so that with one hand they set stones, while they fought with the other. Likewise are we surrounded by hostile vices as we build the walls of the Church; but we oppose them with the shield of faith and the breastplate of righteousness, and the sword of the Word of God in our hands.

The church edifice is disposed like the human body. The chancel, where the altar is, represents the head, and the cross (transept) the arms and hands. The western portion (nave and aisles) is the rest of the body. But indeed Richard of St. Victor deems that the three parts of the edifice represent in order of sanctity, first the virgins, then the continent, and lastly married people.

Again, the Church is built with four walls; that is, by the teaching of the four evangelists it rises broad and high into the altitude of the virtues. Its length is the long-suffering with which it endures adversity; its breadth is love, with which it embraces its friends in God, and loves its enemies for His sake; its height is the hope of future reward. Again, in God’s temple the foundation is faith, which is as to what is not seen; the roof is charity, which covers a multitude of sins. The door is obedience—keep the commandments if thou wilt enter into life.[88] The pavement is humility. The four walls are the four virtues, righteousness, (justitia), fortitude, prudence, and temperance. The windows are glad hospitality and free-handed pity.

Some churches are cruciform, to teach us that we are crucified to the world, or should follow the Crucified. Some are circular, which signifies that the Church is spread through the circle of the world.

The apse signifies the faithful laity; the crypts, the hermits. The nave signifies Christ, through whom lies the way to the heavenly Jerusalem; the towers are the preachers and prelates, and the pinnacles represent the prelates’ minds which soar on high. Also a weather-cock on top of the church signifies the preachers, who rouse the sleeping from the night of sin, and turning ever to the wind, resist the rebellious. The iron rod upholding the cock is the preacher’s sermon; and because this rod is placed above the cross on[Pg 81] the church, it indicates the word of God finished and confirmed, as Christ said in His passion, “It is finished.” The lofty dome on which the cross is set, signifies how perfect and inviolate should be the preaching and observance of the Catholic Faith.

The glass windows of the church are the divine Scriptures, which repel the wind and rain, but admit the light of the true sun, to wit God, into the church, that is, into the hearts of the faithful. The windows also signify the five senses of the body.[89]

The door of the church (again) is Christ—“I am the Door”; the doors are also the Apostles. The pillars are the bishops and doctors; their bases are the apostolic bishops; their capitals are the minds of the doctors and bishops. The pavement is the foundation of faith, and also signifies the “poor in spirit,” also the common crowd by whose labours the church is upheld. The rafters are the princes and preachers in the world, who defend the church by deed and word. The seats in a church are the contemplative in whom God rests without offence. The panels in the ceiling are also preachers who adorn and strengthen.

The chancel, the head of the church, by being lower than the rest, indicates how great should be the humility of the clergy. The screens by which the altar is separated from the choir signify the separation of heavenly beings from things of earth. The choir stalls indicate the body’s need of recreation. The pulpit is the life of the perfect. The horologe signifies the diligence with which the priests should say the canonical hours. The tiles of the roof are the knights who protect the church from pagans. The spiral stairways concealed within the walls are the secret knowledge had only by those who ascend to the heavenly places. The sacristy, where the holy utensils are kept and the priest puts on his vestments, signifies the womb of the most holy Virgin, in which Christ put on His sacred garb of flesh. From thence the priest emerges before the public, as Christ went forth from the Virgin’s womb into the world. The lamp signifies Christ, who is the light of the world;[Pg 82] or the lamps signify the Apostles and other doctors, whose doctrine lights the church. Moses also made seven lights, which are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Durandus next devotes a whole chapter to the symbolism of the altar, and another to the significance and function of ornaments, pictures, and sculpture. The latter opens with the words: “The pictures and ornaments in a church are the texts and scriptures (lectiones et scripturae) of the laity.” This chapter is long; it explains how Christ and the angels, also saints, Apostles and others, should be represented, and describes the proper kinds of church ornament and utensils. Much of the detail is symbolical.

Thus Durandus devised or brought together meanings to fit each bit of the church edifice, its materials and furnishings. In the work of a contemporary are stored the allegorical meanings of the subjects of Gothic sculpture and painted glass. The thirteenth century had a weakness for the word “Speculum,” and the idea it carried of a mirror or compendium of all human knowledge. The chief of mediaeval encyclopaedists was Vincent of Beauvais, a protégé of the saintly King Louis IX. An analysis of his huge Speculum majus is given elsewhere.[90] It was made up of the Mirror of Nature, the Mirror of human Knowledge and Ethics, and the Mirror of History. The compiler and his assistants laboured during the best period of Gothic art, and from their work, industry may draw an exhaustive commentary upon the series of topics presented by the sculpture and glass of a cathedral.[91]

The Mirror of Nature appears carved in the sculpture of Chartres or Bourges. In rendering the work of the Six Days, the Creator is shown (under the form of Christ)[92][Pg 83] contemplating His work, or resting from His toil; here and there a lion, sheep, or goat, suggests the animal creation, and a few trees the vegetable world. This is the necessary symbolism of the sculptor’s art. But Gothic animals and plants sometimes have other definite symbolic meanings, as in the instance of the well-known signs of the four Evangelists, the man, the lion, the ox, the eagle. The allegorical interpretations of Scripture were an exhaustless source of symbolism for Gothic sculptors; another was the Physiologus and its progeny of Bestiaries, with their symbolic explanations of the legendary attributes of animals. Intentional symbolism, however, did not inhere in all this carving, much of which is sheer fancy and decoration. Such was the character of the splendid Gothic flora, of the birds and beasts that move in it, and of the grotesque monsters. They were not out of place, since the Gothic cathedral was itself a Speculum or Summa, and should include the whole of God’s creation, not omitting even the devils who beset men’s souls.

Vincent may have drawn from Hugo of St Victor the current doctrine that the arts have part in the work of man’s restoration; a doctrine abundantly justifying the presence of the sciences and crafts (composing the Mirror of Knowledge) in the sculpture and painting of the cathedral. There the Seven Liberal Arts are rendered, through allegorical figures; and the months of the year are symbolized in the Zodiac and the labours of the field which make up man’s annual toil. Philosophy is shown and Fortune’s wheel; the Virtues and Vices are represented in personifications, and even their conflict, the Psychomachia, may be shown.

At last the Mirror of History is reached. This will teach in concrete examples what has been learned from the figures of the abstract Virtues and Vices. Its chief source is the Bible. Those Old Testament incidents were selected which for centuries had been interpreted as prefigurements of the life of Christ; and each was presented as a pendant to the Gospel scene which it typified. These make the chief subjects of the coloured glass of Chartres and Bourges and other cathedrals where the windows are preserved. Here may be seen the Passion of Christ, surrounded by[Pg 84] scenes from the Old Testament typifying it; likewise His Resurrection and its ancient types; and other significant incidents in the life of the Saviour and His virgin mother.[93] The latter is typified by the burning bush, by the fleece of Gideon, by the rod of Aaron, even as in the hymns of Adam of Saint-Victor.[94] Besides these incidents, leading personages of the Old Testament are presented as prefigurative of Christ, as in the great series of statues of Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, on the north portal of Chartres; while the four greater and twelve minor prophets are shown as types of the four Evangelists and the twelve Apostles. Christ himself is depicted on a window at St. Denis, between the allegorical figures of the Ancient Law and the Gospel,—figures which are allied to those of the uncrowned and blinded Synagogue and the triumphant Church, so frequently seen together upon cathedrals. Everywhere the tendency to symbolize is strong. Parts of the Crucifixion scene are rendered symbolically, and many of the parables. That of the Good Samaritan constantly appears upon the windows, and is always designed so as to convey the allegorical teaching drawn from it in Honorius’s sermon.[95]

Obviously this Mirror of History was chiefly sacred history. Pagan antiquity was scantily suggested by the Sibyls, who stand for the dumb pagan prophecy of Christ. Scenes from the history of Christian nations were more frequent; but they always told of some victory for Christ, like the baptism of Clovis, or the crusading deeds of Charlemagne, Roland or Godfrey of Bouillon. God’s drama closed with the Last Judgment, the damnation of the damned and the beatitude of the elect. The Last Judgments, usually over-arching the tympanums above cathedral doors, are known to all—as at Rheims, at Chartres, at Bourges. They are full of symbolism, and full of “historic” reality as well. The treatment becomes entirely allegorical when the sculptor enters Paradise with the redeemed, and portrays in lovely personifications the beatitudes of the blessed, as on the north portal of Chartres.

[Pg 85]Those bands of nameless men who carved the statues and designed the coloured glass which were to make Gothic cathedrals speak, faithfully presented the teachings of the Church. They rendered the sacred drama of mankind’s creation, fall, redemption, and final judgment unto hell or heaven: they rendered it in all its dogmatic symbolism, and with a plastic adequacy showing how completely they thought and felt in the allegorical medium in which they worked. They also created matchless ideals of symbolism in art. The statuary of the portals and façades of Rheims and Chartres are in their way comparable to the sculptures of the pediment of the Parthenon. But unlike those masterpieces of antique idealism, these Christian masterpieces do not seek to set forth mortal man in his natural strength and beauty and completeness. Rather they seek to show the working of the human spirit held within the power and grace of God. Theirs is not the strength and beauty of the flesh, or the excellence of the unconquerable mind of man; but in them man’s mind and spirit are palpably the devout creatures of God’s omnipotence, obedient to His will, sustained and redeemed by His power and grace. Attitude, form, feature, alike designed to express the sacred beauty of the soul, are not invested with physical excellence for its own sake; but every physical quality of these statues is a symbol of some holy and beautiful quality of spirit. These statues attain a symbolic, and not a natural, ideal in art. Yet many of them possess the physical beauty of form and feature, inasmuch as such may be the proper envelope for the chaste and eager soul.[96]

On the other hand, in the filling out of the illustrative detail of life on earth, of handicraft and art, the sculptor showed how he could carve these actualities, and present earth’s beauty in the cathedral’s wealth of vine and flower and leaf. The level commonplace of humanity is deftly rendered, the daily doings of the forge and field and market-place, the tugging labourer, the merchant with his stuffs, the[Pg 86] scholar with his scrolls. He knew life well, this artist, and had an eye for every catching scene, also for Nature’s subtle beauties. Sometimes a certain passing show was represented because a window was given by some drapers’ guild, desirous of seeing its craft shown in a place of honour; and the artist loved his scenes from busy life, as he loved his ornament from Nature. Such scenes (which rarely held specific allegory) were not unconnected with the rest of the drama of creation and redemption mirrored in the cathedral, nor was the exquisitely cut leaf and rose without its suggestion of the grace incarnate in the Virgin and her Son. Daily life and natural ornament had at least an illustrative pertinency to the whole, of which they were unobtrusive and lovely elements; and since that whole was primarily a visible symbol of the unseen and divine power, these humble elements had part in its unutterable mystery, and were likewise symbols.

Finally, have not these nameless artists—even as Dante and our English Bunyan—presented by their art a synthesis of life’s realities? Their feet were on the earth; with sympathy and knowledge their hands worked in the media of things seen and handled, and fashioned the little human matters which are bounded by the cradle and the grave. Such were the materials from which Dante formed his Commedia, and Bunyan drew the Progress of his Pilgrim soul to God. Yet as with Bunyan and Dante, so with these artists in stone and coloured light, the mortal and the tangible were but the elements through which the poem or story, or the carved or painted picture, was made the realizing symbol of the unseen and eternal Spirit.



Beneath the Abbey Church of Saint-Victor there was a crypt consecrated to the Mother of God. Here a certain monk was wont to retire and compose hymns in her honour. One day his lips uttered the lines:

“Salve, mater pietatis,
[Pg 87]Et totius Trinitatis
Nobile triclinium;
Verbi tamen incarnati
Speciale majestati
Praeparans hospitium!”

Whereupon a flood of light filled the crypt, and the Virgin, appearing to him, inclined her head.

The monk’s name was Adam,[97] and he is deemed the best of Latin hymn-writers. Breton born, he entered Saint-Victor in his youth, about the year 1130. He was favoured with the instruction of Hugo till the master’s death in 1141. Adam must have been of nearly the same age as Richard of Saint-Victor, that other pupil of Hugo who makes the third member of the great Victorine trio. Their works have been the monastery’s fairest fame. Hugo was a Saxon; Adam a Breton; Richard was Scotch. So Saint-Victor drew her brilliant sons from many lands. Richard, whose writings worthily supplemented those of his master Hugo,[98] died in 1173; his friend Adam outlived him, and died an old man as the twelfth century was closing. He was buried in the cloister, and over him was placed an elegiac epitaph upon human vanity and sin, in part his own composition.

Adam’s hymns were Sequences[99] intended for church use. Their author was learned in Christian doctrine, skilled in the Liturgy, and saturated with the spirit of devotional symbolism. His symbolism, which his gift of verse made into imagery, was that of the mediaeval church and its understanding of the Liturgy; he also shows the special influence of Hugo. Adam’s hymns, with their powerful Latin rhymes, cannot be reproduced in English; but a translation may give the contents of their symbolism. The hymn for Easter, beginning “Zyma vetus expurgetur,”[100] is an epitome of the symbolic prefiguration of Christ in the Old Testament. Each familiar allegorical interpretation flashes in a phrase. Literally translated, or rather maltreated, it is as follows:

[Pg 88]“Let the old leaven be purged away that a new resurrection may be celebrated purely. This is the day of our hope; wonderful is the power of this day by the testimony of the law.

“This day despoiled Egypt, and liberated the Hebrews from the fiery furnace; for them in wretched straits the work of servitude was mud and brick and straw.[101]

“Now as praise of divine virtue, of triumph, of salvation, let the voice break free! This is the day which the Lord made, the day ending our grief, the day bringing salvation.

“The Law is the shadow of things to come, Christ the goal of promises, who completes all. Christ’s blood blunts the sword the guardians removed.[102]

“The Boy, type of our laughter, in whose stead the ram was slain, seals life’s joy.[103] Joseph issues from the pit;[104] Christ returns above after death’s punishment.

“This serpent devours the serpents of Pharaoh secure from the serpent’s spite.[105] Whom the fire wounded, them the brazen serpent’s presence freed.[106]

“The hook and ring of Christ pierce the dragon’s jaw;[107] the sucking child puts his hand into the cockatrice’s den, and the old tenant of the world flees affrighted.[108]

“The mockers of Elisha ascending the house of God, feel the bald-head’s wrath;[109] David, feigning madness, the goat cast forth, and the sparrow escape.[110]

“With a jaw-bone Samson slays a thousand and spurns the marriage of his tribe. Samson bursts the bars of Gaza, and, carrying its gates, scales the mountain’s crest.[111]

[Pg 89]“So the strong Lion of Judah, shattering the gates of dreadful death, rises the third day; at His father’s roaring voice, He carries aloft His spoils to the bosom of the supernal mother.[112]

“After three days the whale gives back from his belly’s narrow house Jonas the fugitive, type of the true Jonas. The grape of Cyprus[113] blooms again, opens and grows apace. The synagogue’s flower withers, while flourishes the Church.[114]

“Death and life fought together: truly Christ arose, and with Him many witnesses of glory. A new morn, a glad morn shall wipe away the tears of evening: life overcame destruction; it is a time of joy.

“Jesu victor, Jesu life, Jesu life’s beaten way, thou whose death quelled death, bid us to the paschal board in trust. O Bread of life, O living Wave, O true and fruitful Vine, do thou feed us, do thou cleanse us, that thy grace may save us from the second death. Amen.”

From the time of that old third-century hymn ascribed to Clement of Alexandria,[115] hymns to Christ had been filled with symbolism, the symbolism of loving personification of His attributes, as well as with the more formal symbolism of His Old Testament prefigurements. Adam’s symbolism is of both kinds. It has feeling even when dogmatic,[116] and throbs with devotion as its theme approaches the Gospel Christ. Prevailing modes of thought and feeling may prescribe topics for verse which a succeeding age will find curiously unpoetic. Yet if the later time have a sympathetic understanding for the past, it will recognize how fervid and how songful was that bygone verse—the verse of Adam’s hymns, for instance. In one for Christmas Day, beginning:

“Potestate, non natura,
Fit Creator creatura,”[117]

[Pg 90]a stanza touches on the reason why the Creator thus became creature. It would be impossible to render its feeling in English, and much circumlocution would be needed to express even its literal meaning in any language but mediaeval Latin. This stanza has twelve lines:

“Causam quaeris, modum rei:
Causa prius omnes rei,
Modus justum velle Dei,
Sed conditum gratia.”

“Thou askest cause and modus of the fact: the causa rei was before all, the modus was God’s righteous willing, but seasoned with grace.”

These lines are scholastic. In the next four, the feeling begins to rise, yet the phrases repel rather than attract us:

“O quam dulce condimentum
Nobis mutans in pigmentum,
Cum aceto fel cruentum
Degustante Messya!”

“Oh! how sweet the condiment changing for us into juice, as the Messiah tastes the bloody gall and vinegar.”

The feeling touches its climax with the four concluding lines, in which the parable of the Good Samaritan is invested with the special allegorical significance set forth in the sermon of Honorius:[118]

“O salubre sacramentum,
Quod nos ponit in jumentum
Plagis nostris dans unguentum
Ille de Samaria.”

“O health-giving sacrament which sets us on a beast, giving ointment for our stripes,—he of Samaria.”[119]

Two stanzas from another of Adam’s Christmas hymns[Pg 91] will show how curiously intricate could be his symbolism. Having spoken of the ineffable wonder of the Incarnation, he proceeds:

“Frondem, florem, nucem sicca
Virga profert, et pudica
Virgo Dei Filium.
Fert coelestem vellus rorem,
Creatura creatorem,
Creaturae pretium.

“Frondis, floris, nucis, roris
Pietati Salvatoris
Congruunt mysteria.
Frons est Christus protegendo,
Flos dulcore, nux pascendo,
Ros coelesti gratia.”[120]

“A dry rod puts forth leafage, flower, nut,[121] and a chaste Virgin brings forth the Son of God. A fleece bears heavenly dew,[122] a creature the Creator, the creature’s price.

“The mysteries of leafage, flower, nut, dew are suited to the Saviour’s tender love (pietas). The foliage by its protecting is Christ, the flower is Christ by its sweetness, the nut as it yields food, the dew by its celestial grace.”

One observes that here the symbolism first touches Christ’s birth, the dry rod and the fleece representing the Virgin. Then the leafage, flower, nut and dew typify His qualities. The remaining stanzas of this hymn carry out in further detail the symbolism of the nut.

Besides the hymns devoted to the Saviour, the greater part of Adam’s hymns are symbolical throughout. Those written for the dedication of churches are among the most interesting. One beginning “Quam dilecta tabernacula”[123] sketches the Old Testament facts which prefigure Christ’s holy Church. The keynote is in the lines:

“Quam decora fundamenta
Per concinna sacramenta
Umbra praecurrentia!”

[Pg 92]“How seemly the foundations through the appropriate sacraments, the forerunning shadow.”

The shadow is the Old Testament, and these three lines sum up the teaching of Hugo as to the sacramental nature of the Old Testament narratives. Throughout this hymn Adam follows Hugo closely.[124] In another dedicatory hymn[125] Adam gives the prefigurative meaning of the parts of Solomon’s temple. There is likewise much symbolism in the grand hymns addressed to the Virgin. One for the festival of the Assumption[126] gives the figures of the Virgin in the Old Testament—the throne of Solomon, the fleece of Gideon, the burning bush. Then with more feeling the metaphorical epithets pour forth, voicing the heart’s gratitude to the Virgin’s saving aid to man. A still more splendid example of like symbolism and ardent metaphor is the great hymn beginning:

“Salve mater Salvatoris,
Vas electum, vas honoris,”

which won the Virgin’s greeting for the poet.[127]

The lives of Honorius, of Hugo, of Adam, from whose works we have been drawing illustrations of mediaeval symbolism, vie with each other in obscurity; and properly enough since they were monks, for whom self-effacement is becoming. This personal obscurity culminates with one last example to be drawn from monastic sources. The man himself was an impressive figure in his time; a sight of him was not to be forgotten: he was called magnus and doctor universalis. Nevertheless it has been questioned whether he lived in the twelfth or the thirteenth century, and whether one man or two bore the name of Alanus de Insulis.

There was in fact but one, and he belongs to the twelfth century, dying almost a centenarian, in the year 1202. The cognomen de Insulis has also been an enigma. From it he has been dubbed a Sicilian, and then a Scot, born on the island of Mona. But the name in reality refers to the chief town of Flanders, which is called Lisle; and Alanus doubtless was a Fleming.

[Pg 93]He became a learned man, and lectured at Paris. That he was possessed with no small opinion of his talents would appear from the legend told of him as well as of St. Augustine. He had announced that on a certain day in a single lecture he would set forth the complete doctrine of the mystery of the most Holy Trinity. The afternoon before the day appointed, he walked by the river, thinking how he should arrange his subject so as to include it all. He chanced upon a child who was dipping up the river water with a snail shell and dropping it into a little trench. Smiling, he asked what should be the object of this; and the child told him that he was putting the whole river into his trench. As the great scholar was explaining that this could not be done, he suddenly felt himself chidden and taught—how much less might he perform what he had set for the next morning. He stood speechless at his presumption, and burst into tears. The next day ascending the platform he said to the crowd of auditors, “Let it suffice you to have seen Alanus”;[128] and with that he left them all astonished, and himself hastily set out for Citeaux. On arrival he asked to be admitted as a conversus, and was given charge of the monastery’s sheep. Patient and unknown, he long plied this humble vocation. But at length it chanced that the abbot took him to a council at Rome, in the capacity of hostler. And there he beat down the arrogance of a heretic with such arguments that the latter cried out that he was disputing either with the devil or Alanus, and would say no more.

Such is one story. By another he is made to seek the monastery of Clairvaux, and there become a monk under St. Bernard. It is also written that he became an abbot, and then a bishop, but afterwards resigned his bishopric. However all this may have been, he died and was buried, and was subjected to many epitaphs. On what purports to be an old copy of his tomb at Citeaux, he is shown with St. Bernard, and called Alanus Magnus. The title Doctor universalis has always clung to his memory, which will not altogether fade. For if Adam of Saint-Victor was the[Pg 94] greatest of Latin mediaeval hymn-writers, Alanus has good claim to be called the greatest of mediaeval Latin poets in the field of didactic and narrative poetry.[129]

The many works ascribed to Alanus include an allegorical Commentary on Canticles, a treatise on the art of preaching, a book of sententiae, another of theologicae regulae, sundry sermons, and a lengthy work “contra haereticos”; also a large dictionary of Biblical allegorical interpretations, entitled Liber in distinctionibus dictionum theologicalium.[130] All these are prose. He composed besides his Liber de planctu naturae,[131] and his Anticlaudianus, a learned and profound, and likewise highly imaginative allegorical poem upon man.[132] Its Preface in prose casts a curious light upon the author’s enigmatical personality, which combined the wonted or conventional humility of a monk with the towering self-consciousness of a man of genius.

“The lightning scorns to spend its force on twigs, but breaks the proud tops of exalted trees. The wind’s imperious rage passes over the reed and drives the assaults of its wild blasts against the highest summits. Wherefore let not envy’s flame strike the pinched humility of my work, nor detraction’s breath overwhelm the driven poverty of my little book, where misery’s wreck demands a port of pity, far more than felicity provokes the sting of spite.”

More sentences of turgid deprecation follow, and the author begs the reader not to approach his book with disgust and irritation, but with pleasant anticipations of novelty (not all a monk speaks here!).

“For although the book may not bloom with the purple vestment of flowering speech, nor shine with the constellated light of the flashing period, still in the tenuity of the fragile reed the honey’s sweetness may be found, and parched thirst can be tempered with[Pg 95] the scant water of a rill. In this book let nothing be made vulgar (plebescat) with ribaldry, nor let anything be open to biting reproof, as if it smacked of the coarseness of the moderns [to whom does he refer?]; but let the flower of my talent be presented, and the dignity of diligence; for pigmy humility, thus raised upon a height, may overtop the giant. Let not those dare to tire of this work, who are squalling in the cradles of elementary instruction, sucking milk from nurses’ paps; nor let those seek to cry it down, who are pledged to the service of the higher learning; nor those presume to discredit it, who strike heaven from the top-notch of philosophy. For in this work, the sweetness of the literal meaning will tickle the puerile ear; moral teaching will instruct the more proficient understanding; and the finer subtilty of allegory will sharpen the finished intellect. Wherefore let all those be kept from ingress who, abandoned to the mirrors of the senses, are not charioteered by reason, and, pursuing the sense-image, have no appetite for reason’s truth,—lest indeed what is holy be defiled by dogs, and the pearl be trampled by the feet of swine. But such as will not suffer the things of reason to rest with the base images, and dare to lift their view to forms divine, may thread the narrow passes of my book, while they weigh with discretion’s scales what is suited to the common ear, and what should be buried in silence.”

This Preface of strained sentence and laboured metaphor, of forced humility and overweening self-consciousness, hardly augurs well for the poem of which it is the prelude. But prefaces are authors’ pitfalls, and, moreover, many writers have floundered in one medium of speech while in another they have moved with ease. From the ungainly prose of the Persones Tale, no one would expect the ease and force of Chaucer’s verse. And the reader of Alanus’s Preface need not be discouraged from entering upon his poem. Its subject is man; its philosophic or religious purpose is to expound the functions of God, of Nature, of Fortune, of Virtue and Vice, in making man and shaping his career. The poem is an allegory, original in its general scheme of composition, but in many of its parts following earlier allegorical writings.

The opening lines tell of Nature’s solicitude to bestow her gifts so that the finished work may present a fair harmony: as a patient workman she forges, trims and files, and fashions with reason’s chisel. But when she seeks to invest her work with qualities beyond her giving, she is[Pg 96] obliged to call on the Celestial Council of her Sisters. Responding, pilgrim-like the Crown of Heaven’s soldiery comes from on high, brightens the earth with its light, and clothes the ground with blessed footprints.

Leading this galaxy, Concord advances, foster-child of Peace; then Plenty comes, and Favour, and Youth with favour anointed, and Laughter, banisher of mental mists; then Shame and Modesty, and Reason the measure of good, and Honesty, Reason’s happy comrade; then Dignity (decus) and Prudence balancing her scales, and Piety and true Faith, and Virtue. Last of all Nobility (nobilitas), in grace not quite the others’ equal.[133]

In the midst of a great wood blessed with fountains and multitudinous bird-song, a cloud-kissing mountain rose with level top. Nature’s palace was erected here, gemmed and golden; and within was a great hall hung upon bronze columns. Here the painter’s art had rendered the ways of men, and inscriptions made plain the pictured story. “O new wonders of painting,” exclaims the poet; “what cannot be, comes into being; and painting, the ape of truth, deluding with novel art, turns shadows to realities, and transforms particular falsehood into (general) truth.”[134] There might be seen the power of logic pressing its arguments and conquering sophistry. There Aristotle was preparing his arms, and, more divinely, Plato mused on heaven’s secrets. There Seneca moralized, and Ptolemy explained the stars in their times and courses. There spoke the word of Tully, while Virgil’s muse painted many lies, and put truth’s garb on falsehood. There was also shown the might of Alcides and Ulysses’ wisdom, Turnus’s valour prodigal of life, and Hippolytus’s shame, undone by Venus’s reins.[135] Such and many[Pg 97] other tropes of things and dreams of truth, this royal art set forth.

Here, standing in the midst of her Council, Nature, with bowed head, spoke her solemn words: “Painfully I remake what my hand’s solicitude has wrought. But the hand’s penitence does not wipe out the flaws. The shortcomings of our works must be repaired by some perfect model, some man divine, not smelling of the earth and earthly, but whose mind shall hold to heaven while his body walks the earth. Let him be the mirror in which we may see what our faith, our potency, and virtue ought to be. As it is, our shame is over all the earth.”

When the Council had approved these words, Prudence arose in all her beauty.[136] She discoursed upon man’s dual nature, spirit and body. Nature and her helpers may be the artificers of his mortal body, but the soul demands its heavenly Artificer, and laughs at our rude arts. God’s wisdom alone can create the soul, as Prudence shows by an exposition of its qualities.

Now Reason raised his reverend form, holding his triple glass in which appear the causes and effects and qualities of things. He humbly disclaimed the power to instruct Minerva,[137] and applauded the plan by which a new Lucifer should sojourn in the world. May he unite all the gifts which they can bestow, and be their champion against the Vices. Now let their suppliant vows be sped to Him who alone can create the divine mind. A legate should be despatched above, bearing their request. For this office none is so fit as Prudence, to whom the secrets of Heaven are known, and whose energy and wisdom will surmount the difficulties of the way.

Prudence at first refuses; but Concordia rises, the inspirer of chaste loves, she who knit the souls of David and Jonathan, Pirithous and Theseus, Nisus and Euryalus, Orestes and Pylades. Persuasively she speaks, and points out all the ills the world had suffered by disobedience to her behests. Prudence is won over to the task, and now wills[Pg 98] only as her sisters will. She thinks upon the means and way. Wisdom orders a chariot to be made, in which the sea, the stars, the heavens may be traversed. Its artificers are her seven daughters, wise and fair, who unite the skill and knowledge of all those wise ancients who had excelled in any Art. First Grammar (her functions and great writers being told) forms the pole which goes before the axle-tree (temo praeambulus axis). Then Logic makes the axle-tree; and Rhetoric adorns the pole with gems and the axle with flowers. Arithmetic constructs one wheel of the chariot, and Music the second, Geometry the third, and the fourth wheel is made by Astronomy.[138]

Now Reason, at Nature’s nod, yokes to the chariot the five horses, to wit, the Senses disciplined and controlled, Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste, and Touch. He himself mounts as charioteer, and bids Prudence follow. Amid the farewells and plaudits of all, the chariot soars aloft. As it speeds along, Prudence investigates atmospheric phenomena, and then the spirits of evil who wander through the air. They passed on through the upper ether, reached the citadel and fount of light, where the Sun holds sway; next was reached the region where Venus and the star of Mercury sing together and Lucifer exults, the herald of the day. Then to their rapid flight appeared Mars’ flaming palace, seething with fire and wrath. Onward they passed to the glad light and unhurtful flames of Jupiter, and then to Saturn’s sphere. At length they ascended the stellar region where the Pole stars contend in brightness, where are seen Hercules and Orion, Leda’s twins, the fiery Crab, the Lion, and the rest of the Zodiac’s constellations.[139]

Here at heaven’s entrance the chariot halted. Those five horses of the Senses, charioteered by Reason, could ascend no farther. But a damsel was seen, seated upon the summit of the Pole. She scrutinizes the hidden Cause and End of all things, holding scales in her right hand and in her left a sceptre. On her vestments a subtile point traces[Pg 99] God’s secrets, and the formless is figured in form. Reverently Phronesis, that is Prudence, saluted this Queen of the Pole, and set forth the purpose of her journey, telling of Nature’s desire and her limitations. In reply Theology, for it is she,[140] offered herself as a companion, and bade Prudence leave her chariot, but keep the second courser (Hearing) to bear her on. Prudence now surmounted the starry citadels, and marvelled at heaven’s nodes, where the four ways begin and the crystalline waters flow, shot with agreeing fires; for here, in universal harmony transcending Nature’s laws and Reason’s power, Concord unites those elements which war below. Onward leads the way among those joys celestial which know no tears, where there is peace without hate, and light above all brightness. Here dwell the angel bands, the Thunderer’s princes, regulators of the world; here glow the seraphim, and cherubim drain draughts from the mind of God; and here are the Thrones whereon God balances His weighed decrees, and with His band of Powers conquers the tyrants.[141] Here also rest the saints, freed from earth’s dross and passion, clothed in virgin white or martyr’s purple, or wearing the Doctor’s laurel. Joyful alike are they, yet diverse in merit, shining with unequal splendour.[142] Here finally, in honour surpassing all, is the Virgin Mother, clad in the garb of our salvation—Star of the Sea, Way of Life, Port of Salvation, Limit of Piety, Mother of Pity, Garden closed, Sealed Font, Fruitful Olive, Sweet Paradise, Rose without Thorn, Guiltless Grace, Way of the Wanderer, Light of the Blind, Rest of the Tired—untold, unnumbered, and unspeakable are her praises.[143]

Phronesis cannot bear the sight. Queen Theology calls to her sister Faith to aid the fainting one. Faith comes and holds her Mirror before the eyes of Phronesis; and in this glass her eyes can endure the shaded glory of the overpowering vision. She staggers on, her trembling steps[Pg 100] supported by Faith and Theology. In the glass she sees the eternal and divine, the enduring, moveless, sure; species unborn, celestial ideas, the forms of men and principles of things, causes of causes and the course of fate, the Thunderer’s mind; why God condemns some, predestines others, prepares that one for life and from this one withdraws His rewards; why poverty presses upon some and want is filled only with tears; why riches pour on others, why one is wise, another lacking, and why the worthies of the past have been endowed each with his several gifts.[144]

Marvelling at all these sights, Prudence, supported by the sisters, reached at last the palace of the King, and fell prostrate before God himself. He bade her rise, and speak. Humbly she set forth Nature’s plight and the evil upon earth, and presented her petition. God accedes benignantly. He will not destroy the earth again, but will send a human spirit endowed with heavenly gifts, a pilgrim to the earth, a medicine for the world. Prudence worships. God summons Mind, and orders him to fashion the type-form, the idea of the human mind. Mind searches among existing beings for the traces of this new idea or type.[145] His difficult search succeeds at last, and in the Mirror which he constructs, every grace takes its abode: Joseph’s form, the intelligence of Judith, the patience of righteous Job, the modesty of Moses, Jacob’s simplicity, Abraham’s faith, Tobias’s piety. He presents this pattern-type to God, who sets an accordant soul therein, and then entrusts the new-made being to Phronesis, while Mind anoints it with an unguent against the attacks of the Vices. Phronesis, with her prize, turned to the way by which she had ascended, regained her chariot and Reason her charioteer. Together they sped back to the congratulations of Nature and her Council.

For this perfect soul Nature now forms a beautiful body. Concord unites the two, and a new man is formed, perfect and free from flaw. Chastity and guardian Modesty endow him with their gifts; Reason adds his, and Honesty. These Logic follows, with her gift of skill in argument; Rhetoric brings her stores, then Arithmetic, next Music, next Geometry,[Pg 101] next Astronomy;[146] while Theology and Piety are not behind with theirs; and to these Faith joins her gifts of fidelity and truth. Last of all comes Nobility, Fortune’s daughter. But because she has nothing of her own to give, and must receive all from her mother, she betakes herself to Fortune’s house of splendid mutability. What will Fortune give? The two return to Nature’s palace, and Fortune’s magnificence is proffered by her daughter; but Reason, standing by, will allow only a measured acceptance.[147]

The report of this richly endowed creature reached Alecto. Raging she summoned her pests, the chiefs of Tartarus, doers of ill, masters of every sin—Injury, Fraud, Perjury, Theft, Rapine, Fury and Anger, Hate, Discord, Strife, Disease and Melancholy, Lust, Wantonness and Need, Fear and Old Age. She roused them with a harangue: their rule is threatened by this upstart Creature, whom Parent Nature has prepared for war; but what can his untried imbecility do against them in arms?

All clamour assent, and in a tumult of rage make ready for the strife. The hostile ranks approach. The first attack is made by Folly (Stultitia) and her comrades, Sloth, Gaming, Idle Jesting, Ease and Sleep. But faithful Virtues protect the constant youth against these foes. Next Discord leads its mutinous band, but only to defeat. Onslaughts follow from Poverty, next from Ill-Repute, from Old Age and Disease. Then Grieving advances, and is overthrown by Laughter. More deadly still are the attacks of Venus and Lust; then Excess and Wantonness take up the fray; and at the end Impiety and Fraud and Avarice. But still the man conquers with the aid of his Virtues ever true.

The fight is over. The Virtues triumph and receive their Kingdoms; Vice succumbs; Love reigns instead of Discord; the man is blessed; and the earth, adorned with flowers in a new spring of youth, brings forth abundance. The Poet sums up his poem’s teaching: From God must everything begin and in Him end. But our genius may not[Pg 102] stand inert; ours is the strife as well, according to our strength and faculty. Let the mind attach itself to the things which are and do not pass, even as Plato sings, from things of sense reaching on ever to the grades Angelic and Olympus’s steeps. Then it shall behold the universal praise of God and the true ascription of all good to Him. He in himself is perfect, Part and likewise Whole, and everywhere uncircumscribed. Nothing has power in itself, but all would fall to nothing, did He close the flux of hidden power.

Alanus, a good Christian Doctor, is also an eclectic in his thought. A consistent system is hardly to be drawn from his poem. It suggests Christ. But its hero is not the God-man of the Incarnation. Its figures are semi-pagan. The virtue Faith, for example, is the Fides, the Good Faith, of the antique Roman, though it is the Christian virtue Faith as well. In language the poem is antique; its verse has vigorous flow; its imagery lacks neither beauty nor sublimity. It is in fact a poem, a creation, having a scheme and unity of its own, although the author borrows continually. Martianus Capella is there and Dionysius the Areopagite; there also is the Psychomachia of Prudentius and its progeny of symbolic battles between the Virtues and the Vices.[148] Yet Alanus has achieved; for he has woven his material into a real poem and has reared his own lofty allegory. His work is another grand example of mediaeval symbolism.

Thus we see the ceaseless sweep of allegory through men’s minds. They felt and thought and dreamed in allegories; and also spent their dry ingenuity on allegorical constructions. It was reserved for one supreme poet to create, out of this atmosphere, a supreme poem which is as complete an allegory as the Anticlaudianus. But the[Pg 103] Divina Commedia has also the power of its human realities of actually experienced pain and joy, and hate and love. Compared with it, the Anticlaudianus betrays the vapourings of monk and doctor, imaginative indeed, but thin. The author’s feet were not planted on the earth of human life.

But the Middle Ages did not demand that allegory should have its feet planted on the earth, so long as its head nodded high among the clouds—or its sentiments wandered sweetly in fancy’s gardens. In one of these dwelt that lovely Rose, whose Roman once had vogue. In structure the Roman de la rose is an allegory from the beginning of the first part by De Lorris to the very end of that encyclopaedic sequel added by De Meun. The story is well known.[149] One may recall the fact that in De Lorris’s poem and De Meun’s sequel every quality and circumstance of Love’s sentiment and fortunes are figured in allegorical personifications—all the lover’s hopes and fears and the wavering chances of his quest.

In this respect the poem is the courtly and romantic counterpart of such a philosophical or religious allegory as the Anticlaudianus. Personifications of the arts and sciences, the vices and virtues, current since the time of Prudentius’s Psychomachia and Capella’s Nuptials of Philology, were all in the Anticlaudianus, while in the Roman de la rose figure their secular and romantic kin: in De Lorris’s part, Love, Fair-Welcome, Danger, Reason, Franchise, Pity, Courtesy, Shame, Fear, Idleness, Jealousy, Wicked-Tongue; then, with De Meun, others besides: Richesse, False-Seeming, Hypocrisy, Nature, and Genius.[150] The figures of the Roman de la rose have diverse antecedents[Pg 104] scattered through the entire store of knowledge and classic literature possessed by the Middle Ages; perhaps their immediate source of inspiration was the scheme of courtly love which the mediaeval imagination elaborated and revelled in.[151] The poem of De Lorris was a veritable romantic allegory. De Meun, in his sequel, rather plays with the allegorical form, which he continues; it has become a frame for his stores of learning, his knowledge of the world, his views of life, his wit and satire, and his great literary and poetic gifts. Yet it ends in a regular Psychomachia, in which Love’s barons are hard beset by all the foes of Love’s delight, though Love has its will at last.



[Pg 105]


[Pg 106]


[Pg 107]



I. Classical Reading.
II. Grammar.
III. The Effect upon the Mediaeval Man; Hildebert of Lavardin.



During all the mediaeval centuries, men approached the Classics expecting to learn from them. The usual attitude toward the classical heritage was that of docile pupils looking for instruction. One may recall the antecedent reasons of this, which have already been stated at length. In Italy, letters survived as the most impressive legacy from an overshadowing past. In the north, save where they lingered on from the antique time, they came in the train of Latin Christianity, and were offered to men under the same imposing conditions of a higher civilization authoritatively instructing ruder peoples. Moreover, between the ancient times which produced the classic literature and the Carolingian period there intervened centuries of degeneracy and transition, when the Classics were used pedagogically to teach grammar and rhetoric. Then grammars were composed or revised, and other handbooks of elementary instruction. The Classics still were loved; but how shall men love beyond their own natures? Gifted Jerome, great Augustine, loved them with an ardour bringing its own misgivings. Other lovers, like Ausonius and Apollinaris Sidonius, were pedantic imitators.

Both north and south of the Alps another and obviously enduring cause fostered the habit of regarding the Classics[Pg 108] as storehouses of knowledge: the fact that they were such for all the mediaeval centuries. They included not only poetry and eloquence, but also history, philosophy, natural knowledge, law and polity. The knowledge contained in them exceeded what the men of western Europe otherwise possessed. As century after century passed, mediaeval men learned more for themselves, and also drew more largely on the classic store. Yet it remained unexhausted. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries constitute the great mediaeval epoch. Men were then opening their eyes a little to observe the natural world, and were thinking a little for themselves. Nevertheless the chief increase in knowledge issued from the gradual discovery and mastering of the works of Aristotle. These centuries, like their predecessors, make clear that men who inherit from a greater past a universal literature containing the best they can conceive and more knowledge than they can otherwise attain, will be likely to regard every part of this literature as in some way a source of knowledge, physical or metaphysical, historical or ethical. And the Classics merited such regard; for where they did not instruct in science, they imparted knowledge of life, and norms and instances of conduct, from which men still may draw guidance. We have outlearned the physics, and perhaps the metaphysics of the Greeks; their knowledge of nature, in comparison with ours, was but as a genial beginning; their polities and their formal ethics we have tried and tested; but we have not risen above the power and inspiration of the story of Greece and Rome, and the exemplifications of life in the Greek and Latin Classics. It has not ceased to be true that he who best loves the Classics, and most deeply feels and glories in their unique excellence as literature, is he who still draws life from them, and discipline and knowledge. Their true lovers, like the true lovers of all noble literature, are always in a state of pupilage to the poems and the histories they love.

Obviously then no final word lies in the statement that through the Middle Ages men turned to the Classics for instruction. They did indeed turn to them for all kinds of knowledge, and for discipline. Often they looked for instruction from Ovid or Virgil in a way to make us smile.[Pg 109] Often they were like schoolboys, dully conning words which they did not feel and so did not understand. But in the tenth century, and in the twelfth, some men admired and loved the Latin Classics, and drew from them, as we may, lessons which are learned only by those who love aright.

It would be hard to say what the men of the Middle Ages did not thus gain. The pagan classical literature was one of humanity in its full range of interests. This was true of the Greek; and from the Greek, the universal human passed to the Latin, which the Middle Ages were to know. In both literatures, man was a denizen of earth. The laws of mortality and fate were held before his eyes; and the action of the higher powers bore upon mortal happiness, rather than upon any life to come. When reflecting upon the use and influence of the Classics through the Middle Ages, it is always to be kept in mind that the antique literature was the literature of this life and of this world; that it was universal in its humanity, and still in the Middle Ages might touch every human love and human interest not directly connected with the hopes and terrors of the Judgment Day.

So whenever educated mediaeval men were drawn by the ambitions or moved by the finer joys of human life, it lay in their path to seek instruction or satisfaction from some antique source. If a man wished the common education of a clerk, he drew it from antique text-books and their commentaries. Grammar and rhetoric meant Latin grammar and Latin rhetoric; dialectic also was Latin and antique. Likewise the quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music, could be studied only in Latin. These ordinary branches of education having been mastered, if then the man’s tastes or ambitions turned to the interests of earth (and who except the saintly recluse was not so drawn?) he would still look to the antique. A civilian or an ecclesiastic would need some knowledge of law, which for the most part was Roman, even when disguised as Canon law.[152] Did a man incline toward philosophy, and the scrutiny of life’s deeper problems, again the source was the antique; and when he lifted his mind to theology, he would still find[Pg 110] himself reasoning in categories of antique dialectic. Finally, and this was a broad field of humane inclination, if a clerkly educated man loved poetry, eloquence, and history, for their own sakes, he also would turn to the antique.

There is scarcely need to revert again to the use of the Classics in the earlier Middle Ages. We have seen that in Italy they never ceased to form the conscious background to all intellectual life; and that in the north, letters came a handmaid in the train of Latin Christianity—a handmaid that was apt to assert her own value, and also charm the minds of men. From the first, it was the orthodox view that Latin letters should provide the education enabling men to understand the Christian religion adequately. This is the object set forth in Charlemagne’s Capitularies upon education.[153] Three hundred years later Honorius of Autun says in his sermonizing way:

“Not only, beloved, do the sacred writings lead us to eternal life, but profane letters also teach us; for edifying matter may be drawn from them. In view of sacred examples no one should be scandalized at this. For the children of Israel spoiled the Egyptians; they took gold and silver, gems and precious vestments, which they afterwards turned into God’s treasury to build the tabernacle.”[154]

Honorius used Augustine’s reference to the Egyptians, and followed this Augustinian view, always recognized as orthodox in the Middle Ages. It was narrower than the practice among those who followed letters. Gerbert at the close of the tenth century loved to teach and read the pagan writers, and drew from them training and discipline.[155] In the next century, the German monk Froumund of Tegernsee, with Bernward and Godehard, bishops of Hildesheim, are instances of German love of antique letters.[156] Yet lofty souls might choose to limit their reading of the Classics, at least in theory, to the needs of their Latinity. Such a one was Hugo of St.-Victor, scholar, theologian, man of genius;[157] he professed to care more for the Christian ardours of the soul than for learning even as a means of righteousness,[Pg 111] and chose to take the side of those who would read the classic authors only so far as the needs of education demanded:

“There are two kinds of writings, first those which are termed the artes proper, secondly, those which are the supplements (appendentia) of the artes. Artes comprise the works grouped under (supponuntur) philosophy, those which contain some fixed and determined matter of philosophy, as grammar, dialectic and the like. Appendentia artium are those [writings] which touch philosophy less nearly and are occupied with some subject apart from it; and yet sometimes offer flotsam and jetsam from the artes, or simply as narratives smooth the road to philosophy. All the songs of poets are such—tragedies, comedies, satires, heroics, and lyrics too, and iambics, besides certain didactic works (didascalica); tales likewise, and histories; also the writings of those nowadays called philosophers, who extend a brief matter with lengthy circumlocution, and thus darken a simple meaning.

“Note then well the distinction I have drawn for thee: distinct and different (duo) are the artes and their appenditia, ... and often from the latter the student will gain much labour and little fruit. The artes, without their appenditia, may make the reader perfect; but the latter, without the artes, can bring no whit of perfection. Wherefore one should first of all devote himself to the artes, which are so fundamental, and to the aforesaid seven above all, which are the means and instruments (instrumenta) of all philosophy. Then let the rest be read, if one has leisure, since sometimes the playful mingled with the serious especially delights us, and we are apt to remember a moral found in a tale.”[158]

Temperament affected Hugo’s view. He was of the spiritual aristocracy, who may be somewhat disdainful of the common means by which men get their education and round out their natures. The mechanical monotony of pedagogy grated on him and evoked the ironical sketch of a school-room, which he put in his dialogue on the Vanity of the World. The little Discipulus, directed by his Magister, is surveying human things.

“Turn again, and look,” says the latter, “and what do you see?”

“I see the schools of learners. There is a great crowd, and of all ages, boys and youths, men young and old. They study various[Pg 112] things. Some practise their rude tongue at the alphabet and at words new to them. Others listen to the inflection of words, their composition and derivation; then by reciting and repeating them they try to commit them to memory. Others furrow the waxen tablets with a stylus. Others, guiding the calamus with learned hand, draw figures of different shapes and colours on parchments. Still others with sharper zeal seem to dispute on graver matters and try to trip each other with twistings and impossibilities (gryphis?). I see some also making calculations, and some producing various sounds upon a cord stretched on a frame. Others, again, explain and demonstrate geometric figures; and yet others with various instruments show the positions and courses of the stars and the movement of the heavens. Others, finally, consider the nature of plants, the constitution of men, and the properties and powers of things.”

The Disciple is captivated with this many-coloured show of learning; but the Master declares it to be mostly foolishness, distracting the student from understanding his own nature, his Creator, and his future lot.[159]

These are examples, which might be multiplied indefinitely, of the pious mediaeval view that the artes, with a very little reading of the auctores, were proper for the educated Christian, whose need was to understand Scripture. Sometimes, stung, at least rhetorically, by fear of the lust and idolatry of the antique, mediaeval souls cry out against its lures, even as Jerome’s Christianly protesting nature dreamed that famous dream of exclusion from heaven as a “Ciceronian.” Alcuin, who led the educational movement under Charlemagne, gently chides one whose fondness for Virgil made him forget his friend—“would that the Gospels rather than the Aeneid filled thy breast.”[160] Three hundred years later, St. Peter Damiani, himself a virtuoso in letters and a sometime teacher of rhetoric, arraigns the monks for teaching grammar rather than things spiritual.[161] Damiani speaks with the harshness of one who fears what he loves. In France, about the same time, our worthy sermon-writer, Honorius of Autun, liked the profanities well enough, and drew from them apt moral tales, which preachers might introduce to rouse drowsy[Pg 113] congregations. Yet he directs his pulpit-thunder at the cives Babyloniae, the superbi, who after their several tastes finger profane literature to their peril: “Those delighting in quibbling learn Aristotle: the lovers of war have Maro, and the lustful idlers their Naso. Lucan and Statius incite discords, while Horace and Terence equip the pert and wanton (petulantes)—but since the names of these are blotted from the book of life, I shall not commemorate them with my lips.”[162]

This with the excellent Honorius was pious rhetoric. Yet the love and fear of antique letters caused anxiety in many a mediaeval soul, deflected by them from its narrow path to the heavenly Jerusalem. Indeed the love of letters and of knowledge was to play its part, and might take one side or the other, according to the motive of their pursuit, in the great mediaeval psychomachia between the cravings of mortal life and the militant insistencies of the soul’s salvation. This conflict, not confined to mediaeval monks, has its universal aspects. It echoes in the sigh of Michelangelo over the

“affectuosa fantasia,
Che l’ arte si fece idolo e monarca,”

—which had so long drawn his heart from Eternity.[163]

Commonly, however, this conflict did not greatly disturb scholars who felt in some degree the classic spell so manifold of delight in themes delightful, of pleasure somehow drawn from clear statement and convincing sequence of thought, of even deeper happiness springing from the stirring of those faculties through which man rejoices in knowledge. To be sure, readers of the Classics, who drew joy from them or satisfaction, or humane instruction, were comparatively few in the mediaeval centuries, as they are to-day. And undoubtedly in the Middle Ages the Classics usually were read in unenlightened schoolboy fashion. Yet making these reservations, we may be sure that letters yielded up their joys to the chosen few in every mediaeval century. “Amor litterarum ab ipso fere initio pueritiae mihi est innatus,” wrote Lupus in the ninth.[164] Gerbert might have said the[Pg 114] same, and many of the men who taught at Chartres in the generations following. So likewise might have said John of Salisbury. In studying the Classics he certainly looked to them for instruction. But he also loved them, and found companionship and solace in them, as he says, and as Cicero before him had said of letters.

We may ask ourselves what sort of pleasure do we get from reading the Classics? not necessarily a light distracting of the mind, but rather a deeper gratification: thought is aroused and satisfied, and our nature is appeased by the admirable presentation of things admirable. At the same time we may be conscious of discipline and benefit. There is good reason to suppose that a like pleasure, or satisfaction, with discipline and instruction, came to this exceedingly clever John from reading Terence, Virgil and Ovid, Horace, Juvenal, Lucan, Persius and Statius, Cicero, Seneca and Quintilian—for he read them all.[165] John is affected, impressed, and trained by his classic reading; he has absorbed his authors; he quotes from them as spontaneously and aptly as he quotes from Scripture. A quotation from the one or the other may give final point to an argument, and have its own eloquent suggestions. Sometimes the tone of one of his own letters—which usually are excellent in form and language—may agree with that of the pithy antique quotation garnishing it. A mediaeval writer was not likely to say just what we should when expressing ourselves on the same matter. Yet John makes quite clear to us how he cared for antique letters, in the Prologue to his Polycraticus, his chief work on philosophy and life; and we may take his word as to the satisfaction which he drew from them, since his own writings prove his assiduity in their cult. This prologue is somewhat cherché, and imbued with a preciosity of sentiment putting one in mind of Cicero’s oration Pro Archia poeta.

“Most delightful in many ways, but in this especially, is the fruit of letters, that banishing the reserve of intervening place and time, they bring friends into each other’s presence, and do not[Pg 115] suffer noteworthy things to be obliterated by dust. For the arts would have perished, laws would have vanished, the offices of faith and religion would have fallen away, and even the correct use of language would have failed, had not the divine pity, as a remedy for human infirmity, provided letters for the use of mortals. Ancient examples, which incite to virtue, would have corrected and served no one, had not the pious solicitude of writers transmitted them to posterity.... Who would know the Alexanders and the Caesars, or admire Stoics and Peripatetics, had not the monuments of writers signalized them? Triumphal arches promote the glory of illustrious men from the carved inscription of their deeds. Thereby the observer recognizes the Liberator of his Country, the Establisher of Peace. The light of fame endures for no one save through his own or another’s writing. How many and how great kings thinkest thou there have been, of whom there is neither speech nor cogitation? Vainly have men stormed the heights of glory, if their fame does not shine in the light of letters. Other favour or distinction is as fabled Echo, or the plaudits of the Play, ceasing the moment it has begun.

“Besides all this, solace in grief, recreation in labour, cheerfulness in poverty, modesty amid riches and delights, faithfully are bestowed by letters. For the soul is redeemed from its vices, and even in adversity refreshed with sweet and wondrous cheer, when the mind is intended upon reading or writing what is profitable. Thou shalt find in human life no more pleasing or more useful employment; unless perchance when, with heart dilated through prayer and divine love, the mind perceives and arranges within itself, as with the hand of meditation, the great things of God. Believe one who has tried it, that all the sweets of the world, compared with these exercises, are wormwood.”[166]

Hereupon, still addressing himself to his friend and patron, Thomas à Becket, John suggests that these recreations are peculiarly beneficial to men in their circumstances, burdened with affairs; and he puts his principles in practice, by launching forth upon his lengthy work of learned and philosophic disquisition.

To supplement this outline of John’s appreciation of the Classics, it will be interesting to look into the literary interpretation of a classical poem, from the pen of one of his contemporaries. So little is known of the author, Bernard Silvestris, that he usually has been confused with his more famous fellow, Bernard of Chartres. We may refer to both[Pg 116] of them again.[167] Here our business is solely with the Commentum Bernardi Silvestris super sex libros Aeneidos Virgilii.[168] The writer draws from the Saturnalia of the fifth-century grammarian, Macrobius; but his allegorical interpretation of the Aeneid seems to be his own. He finds in the Aeneid a twofold consideration, in that its author meant to teach philosophic truth, and at the same time was not inattentive to the poetic plot.

“Since then Virgil in this poem is both philosopher and poet, we shall first expound the purpose and method of the poet.... His aim is to unfold the calamities of Aeneas and other Trojans, and the labours of the exiles. Herein disregarding the truth of history as told by Dares the Phrygian,[169] and seeking to win the favour of Augustus, he adorns the facts with figments. For Virgil, greatest of Latin poets, wrote in imitation of Homer, greatest of Greek poets. As Homer in the Iliad narrates the fall of Troy and in the Odyssey the exile of Ulysses; so Virgil in the second Book briefly relates the overthrow of Troy, and in the rest the labours of Aeneas. Consider the twin order of narration, the natural and the artistic (artificialem). The natural is when the narrative proceeds according to the sequence of events, telling first what happened first. Lucan and Statius keep to this order. The artistic is when we begin in the middle of the story, and thence revert to the commencement. Terence writes thus, and Virgil in this work. It would have been the natural order to have described first the destruction of Troy, and then brought the Trojans to Crete, from Crete to Sicily, and from Sicily to Libya. But he first brings them to Dido, and introduces Aeneas relating the overthrow of Troy and the other things that he has suffered.[170]

“Up to this point we show how he proceeds: next let us observe why he does it so. With poets there is the reason of usefulness, as with a satirist; the reason of pleasure, as with a writer of comedies; and again these two combined, as with the historical poet. As Horace says:

‘Aut prodesse volunt aut delectare poetae,
Aut simul et iucunda et idonea dicere vitae.’

“This kind of a historical poem is shown by its figurative and[Pg 117] polished diction and in the various mischances and deeds narrated. If any one will study to imitate it he will gain skill in writing. The narrative also contains instances and arguments for following the right and avoiding what is evil. Hence a twofold profit to the reader: skill in writing, gained through imitation, and prudence in conduct, drawn from example and precept. For instance, in the labours of Aeneas we have an example of endurance; and one of piety, in his affection for Anchises and Ascanius. From the reverence which he shows the gods, from the oracles which he supplicates, from the sacrifices which he offers, from the vows and prayers which he pours forth, we feel drawn to religion: while through Dido’s unbridled love, we are recalled from desire for the forbidden.”

The above is excellent, but not particularly original. It shows, however, that Bernard could appreciate the Aeneid in this way. His allegorical interpretation is of a piece with current mediaeval methods. Yet to take a poem allegorically was not distinctively mediaeval; for Homer and other poets had been thus expounded from the days of Plato, who did not himself approve. With Bernard, each Book of the Aeneid represents one of the ages of man, the first Book betokening infancy, the second boyhood, and so forth. Allegorical etymologies are applied to the names of the personages; and in general the whole natural course and setting of the poem is taken allegorically. “The sea is the human body moved and tossed by drunkenness and lusts, which are represented by waves.” Aeneas, to wit, the human soul joined to its body, comes to Carthage, the mundane city where Dido reigns, which is lust; this allegory is unfolded in detail. So the interpretation ambles on, not more and not less jejune than such ingenuities usually are.

Classical studies reached their zenith in the twelfth century. For in every way that century surpassed its predecessors; and in classical studies it excelled the thirteenth, which devoted to them a smaller portion of its intellectual energies. The twelfth century, to be sure, was prodigiously interested in dialectic and theology. Yet these had not quite engulfed the humanities; nor had any newly awakened interest in physical or experimental science distracted the eyes of men from the charms of the ancient written page.[Pg 118] The change took place in the thirteenth century. Its best intellectual efforts, north of the Alps at least, were directed to the study and theological appropriation of the Aristotelian encyclopaedia of metaphysics and universal knowledge.[171] The effect of Aristotle was totally unliterary. And the minds of men, absorbed in mastering this giant mass of knowledge and argument, ceased to regard literary form and the humane aspects of Latin literature.

Until the thirteenth century, dialectic and theology were not completely severed from belles lettres. The Platonic-Augustinian theology of the twelfth century had been idealizing and imaginative, not to say poetical. Such an interesting exponent of it as Hugo of St. Victor appears as a literary personage, despite his stinted advocacy of classical study. One notes that for his time the chief single source of physical knowledge was the Latin version of the Timaeus, certainly not a prosaic composition. Thus, for the twelfth century, an effective cause of the continuance of the study of letters lay herein: whatever branch of natural knowledge might allure the student, he could not draw it bodily from a serious but unliterary repository, like the Physics or De animalibus of Aristotle, which were not yet available; he must follow his bent through the writings of various Latin poets as well as prose-writers. In fine, the sources of profane knowledge open to the twelfth century were literary in their nature, and might form part of the literature which would be read by a student of grammar or rhetoric.

One sees this in John of Salisbury. There may have been a few men who knew more than he did of some particular topic. But his range and readiness of knowledge were unique. And it is evident from his writings that his knowledge (except in logic) had no special or scientific source, but was derived from a promiscuous reading of Latin literature. As a result, he is himself a literary man. One may say much the same of his younger contemporary, Alanus de Insulis.[172] He too has gathered knowledge from literary sources, and he himself is one of the best Latin poets of the Middle Ages. Another extremely poetic[Pg 119] philosopher was Bernard Silvestris, the interpreter of Virgil. His De mundi unitate is a Pantheistic exposition of the Universe; it is also a poem; and incidentally it affords another illustration of the general fact, that before the works of Aristotle were made known and expounded in the thirteenth century, all kinds of natural and quasi-philosophic knowledge were drawn from a variety of writings, some of them poor enough from any point of view, but none of them distinctly scientific and unliterary, like the works of Aristotle. Formal logic or dialectic, as cultivated by Abaelard for example, appears as an exception. It had been specialized and more scientifically treated than any branch of substantial knowledge; for indeed it was based on the logical treatises of Aristotle, most of which were in use before Abaelard’s death, and all of which were known to Thierry of Chartres and John of Salisbury.[173]

The contrast between the cathedral school of Chartres and the University of Paris illustrates the change from the twelfth to the thirteenth century. The former has been spoken of in a previous chapter, where its story was brought down to the times of its great teachers, Bernard and Thierry, of whom we shall have to speak in connection with the teaching of grammar and the reading of classical authors. The school flourished exceedingly until the middle of the twelfth century.[174] By that time the schools of Paris had received an enormous impetus from the popularity of Abaelard, and scholars had begun to push thither from all quarters. But it was not till the latter part of the century that the University, with its organization of Masters and Faculties, began visibly to emerge out of the antecedent cathedral school.[175] Chartres was a home of letters; and there Latin literature was read enthusiastically. But in[Pg 120] Paris Abaelard was pre-eminently a dialectician; and after he died, through those decades when the University was coming into existence, the tide of study set irresistibly toward theology and metaphysics. Students and masters of the Faculty of Arts outnumbered all the other Faculties; nevertheless, counting not by tumultuous numbers, but by intellectual strength, the great matter was Theology, and the majority of the Masters in the Arts were students in the divine science. The Arts were regarded as a preparatory discipline. So through its great period, which roughly coincides with the thirteenth century, the University of Paris was for all Europe the supreme seat of Dialectic, Metaphysics, and Theology, and yet no kindly nurse of belles lettres.

The tendencies of Oxford were not quite the same as those of Paris, yet Latin literature as such does not seem to have been cultivated there for its own fair sake. This apparently was unaffected by the fact that a movement for “close” or exact scholarship existed at the English university. Grosseteste, its first great chancellor, teacher and inspirer, unquestionably introduced, or encouraged, the study of Greek; and his famous pupil, Roger Bacon, was a serious Greek scholar, and wrote a grammar of that tongue. But neither Grosseteste nor Bacon appears to have been moved by any literary interest in Greek literature; both one and the other urged the importance of Greek, and of Hebrew too and Arabic, in order to reach a surer knowledge of Scripture and Aristotle. They sought to open the veritable founts of theology and natural knowledge, an intelligent aim indeed, but quite unliterary. In spirit both these men belong to the thirteenth century, not to the twelfth.[176]

In Italy, one does not find that the passage from the twelfth to the thirteenth century displays the decline in classical studies which is apparent north of the Alps. The reasons seem obvious. The passion for metaphysical theology did not invade this land of practical ecclesiasticism and urban living, where pagan antiquity, dumb, broken, and defaced, yet everywhere surviving, was the medium of life[Pg 121] and thought and temperamental inclination in the thirteenth as well as in the twelfth century. Nor was Italy as yet becoming scientific, or greatly interested in physical hypothesis; although medicine was cultivated in various centres, Salerno, for example, and Bologna. But for the twelfth, and for the thirteenth century as well, Italy’s great intellectual achievement was in the two closely neighbouring sciences of canon and civil law. These made the University of Bologna as pre-eminent in law as Paris was in theology. There had been schools of grammar and rhetoric at Bologna and Ravenna, before the lecturing of Irnerius on the Pandects drew to the first-named town the concourse of mature and seemly students who were gradually to organize themselves into a university.[177] Thus at Bologna law flourished and grew great, springing upward from an antecedent base of grammatical if not literary studies. The study of the law never cut itself away from this foundation. For the exigencies of legal business demanded training in the scrivener’s and notarial arts of inditing epistles and drawing documents, for which the ars dictaminis, to wit, the art of composition was of primary utility. This ars, teaching as it did both the general rules of composition and the more specific forms of legal or other formal documents, pertained to law as well as grammar. Of the latter study it was perhaps in Italy the main element, or, rather, end. But even without this hybrid link of the dictamen, grammar was needed for the interpretation of the Pandects; and indeed some of the glosses of Irnerius and other early glossators are grammatical rather than legal explanations of the text. We should bear in mind that this august body of jurisprudential law existed not in the inflated statutory Latin of Justinian’s time, but in the sonorous and correct language of the earlier empire, when the great Jurists lived, as well as Quintilian. Accordingly a close study of the Pandects required, as well as yielded, a knowledge of classical Latinity. Thus law tended to foster, rather than repress, grammar and rhetoric; and had no unfavourable effect on classical studies. And even as such studies “flourished” in Italy in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, they did not[Pg 122] cease to “flourish,” there in the thirteenth, in the same general though rather dull and uncreative way. For it will hereafter appear that the productions of the Latin poets and rhetoricians of Italy were below the literary level of those composed north of the Loire in France, or in England.



From the days of the Roman Empire, the study of grammar was, and never ceased to be, the basis of the conscious and rational knowledge of the Latin tongue. The Roman boys studied it at Rome; the Latin-speaking provincials studied it, and all people of education who remained in the lands of western Europe which once had formed part of the Empire; its study was renewed under Charlemagne; he and Alcuin and all the scholars of the ninth century were deeply interested in what to them represented tangible Latinity, and in fact was to be a chief means by which their mediaeval civilization should maintain its continuity with its source. For grammar was most instrumental in preserving mediaeval Latin from violent deflections, which would have left the ancient literature as the literature of a forgotten tongue. Had mediaeval Latin failed to keep itself veritable Latin; had it instead suffered transmutation into local Romance dialects, the Latin classics, and all that hung from them, might have become as unknown to the Middle Ages as the Greek, and even have been lost forever. It was the study of Latin grammar, with classic texts to illustrate its rules, that kept Latin Latin, and preserved standards of universal usage throughout western Europe, by which one language was read and spoken everywhere by educated people. From century to century this language suffered modification, and varied according to the knowledge and training of those who used it; yet its changes were never such as to destroy its identity as a language, or prevent the Latin writer of one age or country from understanding whatever in any land or century had been written in that perennial tongue.

Therefore fortunately, as the Carolingian scholars studied[Pg 123] Latin grammar, so likewise did those of all succeeding mediaeval generations, thereby holding themselves to at least a homogeneity, though not an unvarying uniformity, of usage. Evidently, however, the method of grammatical instruction had to vary with the needs of the learners and the teachers’ skill. The Romans prattled Latin on their mothers’ knees; and so, with gradually widening deflections, did the Latinized provincials. Neither Roman nor Provincial prattled Ciceronian periods, or used quite the vocabulary of Virgil; yet it was Latin that they talked. Thenceforward there was to be a difference between the people who lived in countries where Romance dialects had emerged from the spoken Latin and prevailed, and those people who spoke a Teuton speech. Although always drawing away, the natal speech of Romance peoples was so like Latin, that in learning it they seemed rather to correct their vulgar tongue than to acquire a new language. So it was in the Christian parts of Spain, in Gaul, and, above all, in Italy, where the vulgar dialects were tardiest in taking distinctive form. Nevertheless, as the Romance dialects, for instance in the country north of the Loire, developed into the various forms of what is called Old French, young people at school would have to learn Latin as a quasi-foreign tongue. Across the Rhine in Germany boys ordinarily had to learn it at school, as a strange language, just as they must to-day; and every effort was devoted to this end.[178] It was not likely that the grammars composed for Roman boys, or at least for boys who spoke Latin from their infancy, would altogether meet the needs of German, or even French, youth. Yet only gradually and slowly in the Middle Ages were grammars put together to make good the insufficiencies of Donatus and Priscian.

The former was the teacher of St. Jerome. He composed a short work, in the form of questions and[Pg 124] answers, explaining the eight parts of speech, but giving no rules of gender, or forms of declension and conjugation, needed for the instruction of those who, unlike the Roman youth, could not speak the language. This little book went by the name of the Ars minor. The same grammarian composed a more extensive work, the third book of which was called the Barbarismus, after its opening chapter. It defined the figures of speech (figurae, locutiones), and was much used through the mediaeval period.

The Ars minor explained in simple fashion the elements of speech. But the Institutiones grammaticae of Priscian, a contemporary of Cassiodorus, offered a mine of knowledge. Of its eighteen books the first sixteen were devoted to the parts of speech and their forms, considered under the variations of gender, declension, and conjugation. The remaining two treated of constructio or syntax. As early as the tenth century Priscian was separated into these two parts, which came to be known as Priscianus major and minor. The Priscian manuscripts, whose name is legion, usually present the former. Diffuse in language, confused in arrangement, and overladen perhaps with its thousands of examples, it was berated for its labyrinthine qualities even in the Middle Ages; yet its sixteen books remained the chief source of etymological knowledge. Priscianus minor was less widely used.

The grammarians of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries followed Donatus and Priscian, making extracts from their works, or abridgements, and now and then introducing examples of deviation from the ancient usage. The last came usually from the Vulgate text of Scripture, which sometimes departed from the idioms or even word-forms approved by the old authorities.[179] The Ars minor of Donatus became enveloped in commentaries; but Priscian was so formidable that in these early centuries he was merely glossed, that is, annotated in brief marginal fashion.

[Pg 125]It would be tedious to dwell upon mediaeval grammatical studies. But the tendencies characterizing them in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries may be indicated briefly. The substance of the Priscianus major was followed by mediaeval grammarians. That is to say, while admitting certain novelties,[180] they adhered to its rules and examples relating to the forms of words, their declension and conjugation. But the Priscianus minor, although used, was departed from. In the first place its treatment of its subject (syntax) was confused and inadequate. There was, however, a broader reason for seeking rules elsewhere. Mediaeval Latin, in its progress as a living or quasi-living language, departed from the classical norms far more in syntax and composition than in word-forms. The latter continued much the same as in antiquity. But the popular and so to speak Romance tendencies of mediaeval Latin brought radical changes of word-order and style, which worked back necessarily upon the rules of syntax. These had been but hazily stated by the old writers, and the task of constructing an adequate Latin syntax remained undone. It was a task of vital importance for the preservation of the Latin tongue. Word-forms alone will not preserve the continuity of a language; it is essential that their use in speech and writing should be kept congruous through appropriate principles of syntax. Such were intelligently formulated by mediaeval grammarians. The result was not exactly what it would have been had the task been carried out in the fourth century: yet it has endured in spite of the attacks, pseudo-attacks indeed, of the cinquecento; and the mediaeval treatment of Latin syntax is the basis of the modern treatment. One may add that syntax or constructio was taken broadly as embracing not only the agreements of number and gender, and the governing[181] of cases, but also the order of words in a sentence, which had changed so utterly between the time of Cicero and Thomas Aquinas.

These general statements find illustration in the famous Doctrinale of Alexander de Villa-Dei, whose author was[Pg 126] born in Normandy in the latter half of the twelfth century. He studied at Paris, and in course of time was summoned by the Bishop of Dol to instruct his nepotes in grammar. While acting as their tutor, he appears to have helped their memory by setting his rules in rhyme; and the bishop asked him to write a Summa of grammar in some such fashion. Complying, he composed the Doctrinale in the year 1199, putting his work into leonine or rhyming hexameter, to make it easier to memorize. Rarely has a school-book met with such success. It soon came into use in Paris and elsewhere, and for some three hundred years was the common manual of grammatical teaching throughout western Europe. It was then attacked and apparently driven from the field by the so-called Humanists, who, however, failed to offer anything better in its place, and plagiarized from the work which they professed to execrate.[182]

The etymological portions of the Doctrinale follow the teachings of the Priscianus major; the part devoted to syntax, or constructio, shows traces of the influence of the Priscianus minor. But Alexander’s treatment of syntax is more systematic and elaborate than Priscian’s; and he did not hesitate to defer to the Vulgate and other Christian Latin writings. Thus he made his work conform to contemporary usage, which its purpose was to set forth. He did the same in the section on Prosody, in which he says that the ancient metricians distinguished a number of feet no longer used, and he will confine himself to six—the dactyl, spondee, trochee, anapaest, iambus, and tribrach.[183] In contradiction to classical usage he condemns elision;[184] and in his chapter on accent he throws over the ancient rules:

“Accentus normas legitur posuisse vetustas;
Non tamen has credo servandas tempore nostro.”[185]

Alexander was not really an innovator. He followed[Pg 127] previous grammarians in condemning elision, and in what he says of quantity and accent. In his syntax he endeavoured to set forth rules conforming to the best Latin usage of his time, like other mediaeval grammarians before him. He was indeed vehement in his advocacy of recent and Christian authors as standards of writing, and he inveighed against the scholars of Orleans, who read the Classics, and would have us sacrifice to the gods and observe the indecent festivals of Faunus and Jove.[186] But others defended the Orleans school, and perhaps still regarded the Classics as the best arbiters of grammar and eloquence. There exist thirteenth-century grammars which follow Priscian more closely than Alexander does.[187] Yet his work represents the dominant tendencies of his time.

Twelfth and thirteenth century grammarians recommended to their pupils a variety of reading, in which mediaeval and early Christian compositions held as large a place as Virgil and Ovid. The Doctrinale advocates no work more emphatically than Petrus Riga’s Aurora, a versified paraphrase of Scripture. Its author was a chorister in Rheims, and died in 1209.[188] The works of scholastic philosophers were not cited as frequently as the compositions of verse-writers; yet mediaeval grammarians were influenced by the language of philosophy, and drew from its training principles which they applied to their own science. Grammar could not help becoming dialectical when the intellectual world was turning to logic and metaphysics. Commencing in the twelfth century, overmasteringly in the thirteenth, logic penetrated grammar and compelled an application of its principles. Often grammarians might better have looked to linguistic usage than to dialectic; yet if grammar was to become a rational science, it had to systematize itself through principles of logic, and make use of dialectic in its endeavour to state a reason for its rules. Those who applied logic to grammar at least endeavoured to distinguish between the two, not always fruitfully. But[Pg 128] a real difference could not fail to assert itself inasmuch as logic was in truth of universal application, while mediaeval grammar never ceased to be the grammar of the Latin language. Nevertheless its terminology was largely drawn from logic.[189]

So dialectic brought both good and ill, proving itself helpful in the regulation of syntax, but banefully affecting grammarians with the conviction that language was the creature of reason, and must conform to principles of logic. One likewise notes with curious interest, that, from their dialectic training apparently, grammarians first found as many species of grammar as languages,[190] and then forsook this idea for the view that, in order to be a science, grammar must be universal, or, as they phrased it, one, and must possess principles not applicable specially to Greek or Latin, but to congruous construction in the abstract; “de constructione congrua secundum quod abstrahit ab omni lingua speciali,” are the words of the English thirteenth-century philosopher and grammarian, Robert Kilwardby.[191] A like idea affected Roger Bacon, who composed a Greek grammar,[192] which appears to have been intended as the first part of a work upon the grammars of the learned languages other than Latin. It was adapted to afford a grounding in the elements of Greek: yet it touches matters in a way showing that the writer had thought deeply on the affinities of languages and the common principles of grammar. Of this the following passage is evidence:

“Therefore, because I wish to treat of the properties of Greek grammar, it should be known that there are differences in the Greek language, to be hereafter noted in giving the names of these dialects (idiomata). And I call them idiomata and not linguas, because they are not different languages, but different properties which are peculiarities (idiomata) of the same language.[193] Wishing[Pg 129] to set forth Greek grammar, for the use of the Latins, it is necessary to compare it with Latin grammar, because I commonly speak Latin myself, seeing that the crowd does not know Greek; also because grammar is of one and the same substance in all languages, although varying in its non-essentials (accidentaliter), also because Latin grammar in a certain special way is derived from Greek, as Priscian says, and other grammarians.”[194]

The dialecticizing of grammar took place in the north, under influences radiating from Paris, the chief dialectic centre. These did not deeply affect grammatical studies in Italy, or in the Midi of France, which in some respects exhibited like intellectual tendencies. Grammar was zealously studied in Italy, but it did not there become either speculative or dialectical. To be sure northern manuals were used, especially the Doctrinale; but the study remained practical, an art rather than a science, and its chief element, or end, was the ars dictaminis or dictandi. The grammatical treatises of Italians were treatises upon this art of epistolary composition and the proper ways of drawing documents. These works were studied also in the North, where the ars dictaminis was by no means neglected.[195]

Latin grammar, although over-dialecticized in the North, and in Italy made very practical, remained of necessity the foundation of classical studies, and of mediaeval literary effort, in prose and verse. As the basis of liberal studies, it had no truer home than the cathedral school of Chartres.[196] Contemporary writers picture the manner in which this study was there made to perform its most liberal office, under favourable mediaeval conditions, in the first[Pg 130] half of the twelfth century. The time antedates the Doctrinale, and one notes at once that the Chartrian masters used the ancient grammatical authorities. This is shown by the Eptateuchon of Thierry, who was headmaster (scholasticus) and then Chancellor there for a number of years between 1120 and 1150. As its name implies, the work was a manual, or rather an encyclopaedia, of the Seven Arts. Thierry compiled it from the writings of the “chief doctors on the arts.” He transcribed the Ars minor of Donatus and then portions of his larger work. Having commended this author for his conciseness and subtilty, Thierry next copied out the whole of Priscian. As text-books for the second branch of the Trivium, he gives Cicero’s De inventione rhetorica libri 2, Rhetoricorum ad Herennium libri 4, De partitione oratoria dialogus, and concludes with the rhetorical writings of Martianus Capella and J. Severianus.[197]

So much for the books. Now for the method of teaching as described by John of Salisbury. He gives the practice of Bernard of Chartres, Thierry’s elder brother, who was scholasticus and Chancellor before him, in the first quarter of the twelfth century. John has been advocating the study of grammar as the fundamentum atque radix of those exercises by which virtue and philosophy are reached; and he is advising a generous reading of the Classics by the student, and their constant use by the professor, to illustrate his teaching.

“This method was followed by Bernard of Chartres, exundissimus modernis temporibus fons litterarum in Gallia. By citations from the authors he showed what was simple and regular; he brought into relief the grammatical figures, the rhetorical colours, the artifices of sophistry, and pointed out how the text in hand bore upon other studies; not that he sought to teach everything in a single session, for he kept in mind the capacity of his audience. He inculcated correctness and propriety of diction, and a fitting use of congruous figures. Realizing that practise strengthens[Pg 131] memory and sharpens faculty, he urged his pupils to imitate what they had heard, inciting some by admonitions, others by whipping and penalties. Each pupil recited the next day something from what he had heard on the preceding. The evening exercise, called the declinatio, was filled with such an abundance of grammar that any one, of fair intelligence, by attending it for a year, would have at his fingers’ ends the art of writing and speaking, and would know the meaning of all words in common use. But since no day and no school ought to be vacant of religion, Bernard would select for study a subject edifying to faith and morals. The closing part of this declinatio, or rather philosophical recitation, was stamped with piety: the souls of the dead were commended, a penitential Psalm was recited, and the Lord’s Prayer.

“For those boys who had to write exercises in prose or verse, he selected the poets and orators, and showed how they should be imitated in the linking of words and the elegant ending of passages. If any one sewed another’s cloth into his garment, he was reproved for the theft, but usually was not punished. Yet Bernard gently pointed out to awkward borrowers that whoever imitated the ancients (majores) should himself become worthy of imitation by posterity. He impressed upon his pupils the virtue of economy, and the values of things and words: he explained where a meagreness and tenuity of diction was fitting, and where copiousness or even excess should be allowed, and the advantage of due measure everywhere. He admonished them to go through the histories and poems with diligence, and daily to fix passages in their memory. He advised them, in reading, to avoid the superfluous, and confine themselves to the works of distinguished authors. For, he said (quoting from Quintilian) that to follow out what every contemptible person has said, is irksome and vainglorious, and destructive of the capacity which should remain free for better things. To the same effect he cited Augustine, and remarked that the ancients thought it a virtue in a grammarian to be ignorant of something. But since in school exercises nothing is more useful than to practise what should be accomplished by the art, his scholars wrote daily in prose and verse, and proved themselves in discussions.”[198]

This passage indicates with what generous use of the auctores Bernard expounded grammar and explained the orators and poets; how he assigned portions of their works for memorizing, and with what care he corrected his pupils’ prose and metrical compositions, criticizing their knowledge and their taste. He was a man mindful of his[Pg 132] Christian piety toward the dead and living, but caring greatly for the Classics, and loving study. “The old man of Chartres (senex Carnotensis),” says John of Salisbury, meaning Bernard, “named wisdom’s keys in a few lines, and though I am not taken with the sweetness of the metre, I approve the sense:

‘Mens humilis, studium quaerendi, vita quieta,
Scrutinium tacitum, paupertas, terra aliena....’”[199]

Bernard, Thierry, and other masters and scholars of their school, as the advocates of classical education, detested the men called by John of Salisbury Cornificiani, who were for shortening the academic course, as one would say to-day, so that the student might finish it up in two or three years, and proceed to the business of life. A good many in the twelfth century adopted this notion, and turned from the pagan classics, not as impious, but as a waste of time. Some of the good scholars of Chartres lost heart, among them William of Conches and a certain Richard, both teachers of John of Salisbury. They had followed Bernard’s methods; “but when the time came that so many men, to the great prejudice of truth, preferred to seem, rather than be, philosophers and professors of the arts, engaging to impart the whole of philosophy in less than three years, or even two, then my masters vanquished by the clamour of the ignorant crowd, stopped. Since then, less time has been given to grammar. So it has come about that those who profess to teach all the arts, both liberal and mechanical, are ignorant of the first of them, without which vainly will one try to get the rest.”[200]

Upon these people who seemed charlatans, and yet may have represented tendencies of the coming time, Thierry, Gilbert de la Porrèe,[201] and John of Salisbury poured their sarcasms. The controversy may have clarified Bernard’s consciousness of the value of classical studies and deepened his sense of obligation to the ancients, until it drew from him perhaps the finest of mediaeval utterances touching the[Pg 133] matter: “Bernard of Chartres used to say that we were like dwarfs seated on the shoulders of giants. If we see more and further than they, it is not due to our own clear eyes or tall bodies, but because we are raised on high and upborne by their gigantic bigness.”[202]

Echoes of this same controversy—have they ever quite died away?—are heard in letters of the scholarly Peter of Blois, who was educated at Paris in the middle of the twelfth century, became a secretary of Henry Plantagenet and spent the greater part of his life in England, dying about the year 1200. He writes to a friend:

“You greatly commend your nephew, saying that never have you found a man of subtler vein: because, forsooth, skimming over grammar, and skipping the reading of the classical authors, he has flown to the trickeries of the logicians, where not in the books themselves but from abstracts and note-books, he has learned dialectic. Knowledge of letters cannot rest on such, and the subtilty you praise may be pernicious. For Seneca says, nothing is more odious than subtilty when it is only subtilty. Some people, without the elements of education, would discuss point and line and superficies, fate, chance and free-will, physics and matter and the void, the causes of things and the secrets of nature and the sources of the Nile! Our tender years used to be spent in rules of grammar, analogies, barbarisms, solecisms, tropes, with Donatus, Priscian, and Bede, who would not have devoted pains to these matters had they supposed that a solid basis of knowledge could be got without them. Quintilian, Caesar, Cicero, urge youths to study grammar. Why condemn the writings of the ancients? it is written that in antiquis est scientia. You rise from the darkness of ignorance to the light of science only by their diligent study. Jerome glories in having read Origen; Horace boasts of reading Homer over and over. It was much to my profit, when as a little chap I was studying how to make verses, that, as my master bade me, I took my matter not from fables but from truthful histories. And I profited from the letters of Hildebert of Le Mans, with their elegance of style and sweet urbanity; for as a boy I was made to learn some of them by heart. Besides other books, well known in the schools, I gained from keeping company with Trogus Pompeius, Josephus, Suetonius, Hegesippus, Quintus Curtius, Tacitus and Livy, all of whom throw into their histories much that makes for moral edification and the advance of liberal science. And I read other books, which had nothing to do with history—very many of them. From all of them[Pg 134] we may pluck sweet flowers, and cultivate ourselves from their urbane suavity of speech.”[203]

In another letter Peter writes to his bishop of Bath, as touching the accusation of some “hidden detractor,” that he, Peter, is but a useless compiler, who fills letters and sermons with the plunder of the ancients and Holy Writ:

“Let him cease, or he will hear what he does not like; for I am full of cracks, and can hold in nothing, as Terence says. Let him try his hand at compiling, as he calls it.—But what of it! Though dogs may bark and pigs may grunt, I shall always pattern on the writings of the ancients; with them shall be my occupation; nor ever, while I am able, shall the sun find me idle.”[204]

It is evident how broadly Peter of Blois, or John of Salisbury, or the Chartrians, were read in the Latin Classics. Peter mentions even Tacitus, a writer not thought to have been much read in the Middle Ages. We have been looking at the matter rather in regard to poetry and eloquence—belles lettres. But one may also note the same broad reading (among the few who read at all) on the part of those who sought for the ethical wisdom of the ancients. This is apparent (perhaps more apparent than real) with Abaelard, who is ready with a store of antique ethical citations.[205] It is also borne witness to by the treatise Moralis philosophia de honesto et utili, placed among the works of Hildebert of Le Mans,[206] but probably from the pen of William of Conches, grammaticus post Bernardum Carnotensem opulentissimus, as John of Salisbury calls him.[207] In some manuscripts it is entitled Summa moralium philosophorum, quite appropriately. One might hardly compare it for organic inclusiveness with the Christian Summa of Thomas Aquinas; but it may very well be likened to the more compact Sentences of the Lombard[208] which were so solidly put together about the same time. The Lombard drew his Sentences from the writings of the Church Fathers; William’s work consists of moral extracts, mainly from Cicero, Seneca, Sallust, Terence,[Pg 135] Horace, Lucan, and Boëthius. The first part, De honesto, reviews Prudentia, Justitia, Fortitudo, and under these a number of particular virtues in correspondence with which the extracts are arranged. The De utili considers the adventitious goods of circumstance and fortune.

The extracts forming the substance of this work were intelligently selected and smoothly joined; and the treatise was much used by those who studied the antique philosophy of life. It was drawn upon, for instance, by that truculent and well-born Welshman, Giraldus Cambrensis, in his De instructione principum, which the author wrote partly to show how evilly Henry Plantagenet performed the functions of a king. This irrepressible claimant of St. David’s See had been long a prickly thorn for Henry’s side.[209] But he was a scholar, and quotes from the whole range of the Latin Classics.



When a man is not a mere transcriber, but puts something of himself into the product of his pen, his work will reflect his personality, and may disclose the various factors of his spiritual constitution. To discover from the writings of mediaeval scholars the effect of their classical studies upon their characters is of greater interest than to trace from their citations the authors read by them. Such a compilation as the Summa moralium which has just been noticed, while plainly disclosing the latter information, tells nothing of the personality of him who strung the extracts together. Yet he had read writings which could hardly have failed to influence him. Cicero and Seneca do not leave their reader unchanged, especially if he be seeking ethical instruction. And there was a work known to this particular compiler which moved men in the Middle Ages. Deep must have been the effect of that book so widely read and pondered on and loved, the De consolatione of Boëthius with its intimate consolings, its ways of reasoning and looking upon life, its setting of the intellectual above the physical, its insistence[Pg 136] that mind rather than body makes the man. Imagine it brought home to a vigorous struggling personality—imagine Alfred reading and translating it, and adding to it from the teachings of his own experience.[210] The study of such a book might form the turning of a mediaeval life; at least could not fail to temper the convulsions of a soul storm-driven amid unreconcilable spiritual conflicts.

One may look back even to the time of Alfred or Charlemagne and note suggestions coming from classical reading. For instance, the antique civilization being essentially urban, words denoting qualities of disciplined and polished men had sprung from city life, as contrasted with rustic rudeness. Thus the word urbanitas passed over into mediaeval use when the quality itself hardly existed outside of the transmitted Latin literature. For an Anglo-Saxon or a Frank to use and even partly comprehend its significance meant his introduction to a new idea. Alcuin writes to Charlemagne that he knows how it rejoices the latter to meet with zeal for learning and church discipline, and how pleasing to him is anything which is seasoned with a touch of wit—urbanitatis sale conditum.[211] And again, in more curious phrase, he compliments a certain worthy upon his metrical exposition of the creed, “wherein I have found gold-spouting whirlpools (aurivomos gurgites) of spiritual meanings abounding with gems of scholastic wit (scholasticae urbanitatis).”[212] Though doubtless this “scholastic wit” was flat enough, it was something for these men to get the notion of what was witty and entertaining through a word so vocalized with city life as urbanitas, a word that we have seen used quite knowingly by the more sophisticated scholar, Peter of Blois.

Again, it is matter of common observation that a feeling for nature’s loveliness depends somewhat on the growth of towns. But mediaeval men constantly had the idea suggested to them by the classic poetry of city-dwelling poets. Here are some lines by Alcuin or one of his friends, expressing sentiments which never came to them from the woods with which they were disagreeably familiar:

[Pg 137]“O mea cella, mihi habitatio, dulcis, amata,
Semper in aeternum, o mea cella, vale.
Undique te cingit ramis resonantibus arbos,
Silvula florigeris semper onusta comis.”[213]

These are little hints of the effect of the antique literature upon men who still were somewhat rough-hewn. Advancing a century and a half, the influence of classic study is seen, as it were, “in the round” in Gerbert.[214] It is likewise clear and full in John of Salisbury, of whom we have spoken, and shall speak again.[215] For an admirable example, however, of the subtle working of the antique literature upon character and temperament, we may look to that scholar-prelate whose letters the youthful Peter of Blois studied with profit, Hildebert of Lavardin, Bishop of Le Mans, and Archbishop of Tours. He shows the effect of the antique not so strikingly in the knowledge which he possessed or the particular opinions which he entertained, as in the balance and temperance of his views, and incidentally in his fine facility of scholarship.

Hildebert was born at Lavardin, a village near the mouth of the Loire, about the year 1055. He belonged to an unimportant but gentle family. Dubious tradition has it that one of his teachers was Berengar of Tours, and that he passed some time in the monastery of Cluny, of whose great abbot, Hugh, he wrote a life. It is more probable that he studied at Le Mans. But whatever appears to have been the character of his early environment, Hildebert belongs essentially to the secular clergy, and never was a monk. While comparatively young, he was made head of the cathedral school of Le Mans, and then archdeacon. In the year 1096, the old bishop of Le Mans died, and Hildebert, then about forty years of age, was somewhat quickly chosen his successor, by the clergy and people of the town, in spite of the protests of certain of the canons of the cathedral. The none too happy scholar-bishop found himself at once a powerless but not negligible element of a violently complicated feudal situation. There was the noble Helias,[Pg 138] Count of Maine, who was holding his domain against Robert de Bellesme, the latter slackly supported by William Rufus of England, who claimed the overlordship of the land. Helias reluctantly acquiesced in Hildebert’s election. Not so Rufus, who never ceased to hate and persecute the man that had obtained the see which had been in the gift of his father, William the Conqueror. It happened soon after that Count Helias was taken prisoner by his opponent, and was delivered over to Rufus at Rouen. But Fulk of Anjou now thrust himself into this feudal mêlée, appeared at Le Mans, entered, and was acknowledged as its lord. He left a garrison, and departed before the Red King reached the town. The latter began its siege, but soon made terms with Fulk, by which Le Mans was to be given to Rufus, Helias was to be set free, and many other matters were left quite unsettled.

Now Rufus entered the town (1098), where Hildebert nervously received him; Helias, set free by the King, offered to become his feudal retainer; Rufus would have none of him; so Helias defied the King, and was permitted to go his way by that strange man, who held his knightly honour sacred, but otherwise might commit any atrocity prompted by rage or greed. It was well for Helias that trouble with the French King now drew Rufus to the north. The next year, 1099, Rufus in England heard that the Count had renewed the war, and captured Le Mans, except the citadel. He hurried across the channel, rushed through the land, entered Le Mans, and passed on through it, chasing Helias. But the war languished, and Rufus returned to Le Mans, or to what was left of it. Hildebert had cause to tremble. He had met the King on the latter’s hurried arrival from England for the war. Rufus had spoken him fair. But now, at Le Mans, he was accused before the monarch of complicity in the revolt. Quickly flared the King’s anger against the man whom he never had ceased to detest. He ordered him to pull down the towers of his cathedral, which rose threatening and massive over the city’s ruins and the citadel of the King. What could the defenceless bishop do to avert disgrace and the desolation of his beloved church? Words were left him, but they did not prove effectual. Rufus commanded him to choose between immediate compliance[Pg 139] and going to England, there to submit himself to the judgment of the English bishops. He accepted the latter alternative, and followed the King, leaving his diocese ruined and his people dispersed. In England, Rufus dangled him along between fear and hope, till at last the disheartened prelate returned to the Continent, having ambiguously consented to pull down those towers. But instead, he set to work to repair the devastation of his diocese. The reiterated mandate of the King was not long in following him, and this time coupled with an accusation of treason. Hildebert’s state was desperate. His clergy were forbidden to obey him, his palace was sacked, his own property destroyed. Such were William’s methods of persuasion. Then the King proposed that the bishop should purge himself by the ordeal of hot iron. Hildebert, the bishop, the theologian, the scholar, was almost on the verge of taking up the challenge, when a letter from Yves, the saintly Bishop of Chartres, dissuaded him. At this moment, with ruin for his portion, and no escape, an arrow ended the Red King’s life in the New Forest. It was the year of grace 1100.

Now, what a change! Henry Beauclerc was from the first his friend, as William Rufus to the last had been his enemy. Hitherto Hildebert has appeared weakly endeavouring to elude destruction, and perhaps with no unshaken loyalty in his bosom toward any cause except his dire necessities. Henceforth, sailing a calmer sea, he repays Henry’s favour with adherence and admiration. He has no support to offer Anselm of Canterbury, still struggling with the English monarchy over investitures; nor has he one word of censure for the clever cold-eyed scholar King who kept his brother, Robert of Normandy, a prisoner for twenty-eight years till he died.

Hildebert had still thirty years of life before him; nor were they all to be untroubled. Shortly after the Red King’s death, he made a voyage to Rome, to obtain the papal benediction. To judge from his poems, he was deeply impressed with the ruins of the ancient city. Returning he devoted himself to the affairs of his diocese and to rebuilding the cathedral and other churches of Le Mans. In 1125, in spite of his unwillingness, for he was seventy years old, he[Pg 140] was enthroned Archbishop of Tours, where he was to be worried by disputes with Louis le Gros of France over investitures. But he acquitted himself with vigour, especially through his letters. A famous one relates to this struggle of his closing years:

“In adversity it is a comfort to hope for happier times. Long has this hope flattered me; and as the harvest in the fields cheers the countryman, the expectation of a fair season has comforted my soul. But now I no longer hope for the clearing of the cloudy weather, nor see where the storm-driven ship, on whose deck I sit, may gain the harbour of rest.

“Friends are silent; silent are the priests of Jesus Christ. And those also are silent through whose prayers I thought the king would be reconciled with me. I thought indeed, but in their silence the king has added to the pain of my wounds. Yet it was theirs to resist the injury to the canonical institutes of the Church. Theirs was it, if the matter had demanded it, to raise a wall before the house of Israel. Yet with the most serene king there is call for exhortation rather than threat, for advice rather than command, for instruction rather than the rod. By these he should have been drawn to agree, by these reverently taught not to sheath his arrows in an aged priest, nor make void the canonical laws, nor persecute the ashes of a church already buried, ashes in which I eat the bread of grief, in which I drink the cup of mourning, from which to be snatched away and escape is to pass from death to life.

“Yet amid these dire straits, anger has never triumphed over me, that I should raise a hue and cry against the anointed of the Lord, or wrest peace from him with the strong hand and by the arm of the Church. Suspect is the peace to which high potentates are brought not by love, but by force. Easily is it broken, and sometimes the final state is worse than the first. There is another way by which, Christ leading, I can better reach it. I will cast my thought upon the Lord, and He will give me the desire of my heart. The Lord remembered Joseph, forgotten by Pharaoh’s chief butler when prosperity had returned to him; He remembered David abandoned by his own son. Perhaps He will remember even me, and bring the tossing ship to rest on the desired shore. He it is who looks upon the petition of the meek, and does not spurn their prayers. He it is in whose hand the hearts of kings are wax. If I shall have found grace in His eyes, I shall easily obtain the grace of the king or advantageously lose it. For to offend man for the sake of God is to win God’s grace.”[216]

[Pg 141]Hildebert was a classical scholar, and in his time unmatched as a writer of Latin prose and verse. Many of his elegiac poems survive, some of them so antique in sentiment and so correct in metre as to have been taken for products of the pagan period. One of the best is an elegy on Rome obviously inspired by his visit to that city of ruins:

“Par tibi, Roma, nihil, cum sis prope tota ruina.”

Its closing lines are interesting:

“Hic superûm formas superi mirantur et ipsi,
Et cupiunt fictis vultibus esse pares.
Non potuit natura deos hoc ore creare
Quo miranda deûm signa creavit homo.
Vultus adest his numinibus, potiusque coluntur
Artificum studio quam deitate sua.
Urbs felix, si vel dominis urbs illa careret,
Vel dominis esset turpe carere fide!”

Such phrases, such frank admiration for the idols of pagan Rome, are startling from the pen of a contemporary of St. Bernard. The spell of the antique lay on Hildebert, as on others of his time. “The gods themselves marvel at their own images, and desire to equal their sculptured forms. Nature was unable to make gods with such visages as man has created in these wondrous images of the gods. There is a look (vultus) about these deities, and they are worshipped for the skill of the sculptor rather than for their divinity.”[217] Hildebert was not only a bishop, he was a Christian; but the sense and feeling of ancient Rome had entered into him. Besides the poem just quoted, he wrote another, either in Rome or after his return, Christian in thought but most antique in sympathy and turn of phrase.

“Dum simulacra mihi, dum numina vana placerent,
Militia, populo, moenibus alta fui;
ruit alta senatus
Gloria, procumbunt templa, theatra jacent.”

The antique feeling of these lines is hardly balanced by the expressed sentiment: “plus Caesare Petrus!”[218] And again we hear the echo of the antique in

[Pg 142]“Nil artes, nil pura fides, nil gloria linguae,
Nil fons ingenii, nil probitas sine re.”[219]

Hildebert has also a poem “On his Exile,” perhaps written while in England with the Red King. Quite in antique style it sings the loss of friends and fields, gardens and granaries, which the writer possessed while prospera fata smiled. Then

“Jurares superos intra mea vota teneri!”

—a very antique sentiment. But the Christian faith of the despoiled and exiled bishop reasserts itself as the poem closes.[220] Did Hildebert also write the still more palpably “antique” elegiacs on Hermaphrodite, and other questionable subjects?[221] That is hard to say. He may or may not have been the author of a somewhat scurrilous squib against a woman who seems to have sent him verses:

“Femina perfida, femina sordida, digna catenis.

“O miserabilis, insatiabilis, insatiata,
Desine scribere, desine mittere, carmina blandia,
Carmina turpia, carmina mollia, vix memoranda,
Nec tibi mittere, nec tibi scribere, disposui me.

“Mens tua vitrea, plumbea, saxea, ferrea, nequam,
Fingere, fallere, prodere, perdere, rem putat aequam.”[222]

With all his classical leanings, the major part of Hildebert was Christian. His theological writings which survive, his zeal against certain riotous heretics, and in general his letters, leave no doubt of this. It is from the Christian point of view that he gives his sincerest counsels; it is from that that he balances the advantages of an active or contemplative life, the claims of the Christian vita activa and vita contemplativa. Yet his classic tastes gave temperance to his Christian views, and often drew him to sheer scholarly pleasures and to an antique consideration of the incidents of life.

How sweetly the elements were mixed in him appears in a famous letter written to William of Champeaux, that[Pg 143] Goliath of realism whom Abaelard discomfited in the Paris schools. The unhappy William retreated a little way across the Seine, and laid the foundations of the abbey of St. Victor in the years between 1108 and 1113. He sought to abandon his studies and his lectures, and surrender himself to the austere salvation of his soul, and yet scarcely with such irrevocable purpose as would rebuff the temperate advice of Hildebert’s letter proffered with tactful understanding.

“Over thy change of life my soul is glad and exults, that at length it has come to thee to determine to philosophize. For thou hadst not the true odour of a philosopher so long as thou didst not cull beauty of conduct from thy philosophic knowledge. Now, as honey from the honeycomb, thou hast drawn from that a worthy rule of living. This is to gather all of thee within virtue’s boundaries, no longer huckstering with nature for thy life, but attending less to what the flesh is able for, than to what the spirit wills. This is truly to philosophize; to live thus is already to enter the fellowship of those above. Easily shalt thou come to them if thou dost advance disburdened. The mind is a burden to itself until it ceases to hope and fear. Because Diogenes looked for no favour, he feared the power of no one. What the cynic infidel abhorred, the Christian doctor far more amply must abhor, since his profession is so much more fruitful through faith. For such are stumbling-blocks of conduct, impeding those who move toward virtue.

“But the report comes that you have been persuaded to abstain from lecturing. Hear me as to this. It is virtue to furnish the material of virtue. Thy new way of life calls for no partial sacrifice, but a holocaust. Offer thyself altogether to the Lord, since so He sacrificed Himself for thee. Gold shines more when scattered than when locked up. Knowledge also when distributed takes increase, and unless given forth, scorning the miserly possessor, it slips away. Therefore do not close the streams of thy learning.”[223]

Eventually William followed this, or other like advice. One sees Hildebert’s sympathetic point of view; he entirely approves of William’s renunciation of the world—a good bishop of the twelfth century might also have wished to renounce its troublous honours! Yes, William has at last turned to the true and most disburdened way of living. But this abandonment of worldly ends entails no abandonment of Christian knowledge or surrender of the cause of Christian[Pg 144] learning. Nay, let William resume, and herein give himself to God’s will without reserve.

So the letter presents a temperate and noble view of the matter, a view as sound in the twentieth century as in the twelfth. And a like broad consideration Hildebert brings to a more particular discussion of the two modes of Christian living, the vita activa and the vita contemplativa, Leah and Rachel, Martha and Mary. He amply distinguishes these two ways of serving God from any mode of life with selfish aims. It happened that a devout monk and friend of Hildebert was made abbot of the monastery of St. Vincent, in the neighbourhood of Le Mans. The administrative duties of an abbot might be as pressing as a bishop’s, and this good man deplored his withdrawal from a life of more complete contemplation. So Hildebert wrote him a long discursive letter, of which our extracts will give the thread of argument:

“You bewail the peace of contemplation which is snatched away, and the imposed burden of active responsibilities. You were sitting with Mary at the feet of the Lord Jesus, when lo, you were ordered to serve with Martha. You confess that those dishes which Mary receives, sitting and listening, are more savoury than those which zealous Martha prepares. In these, indeed, is the bread of men, in those the bread of angels.”

And Hildebert descants upon the raptures of the vita contemplativa, of which his friend is now bereft.

“The contemplative and the active life, my dearest brother, you sometimes find in the same person, and sometimes apart. As the examples of Scripture show us. Jacob was joined to both Leah and Rachel; Christ teaches in the fields, anon He prays on the mountains; Moses is in the tents of the people, and again speaks with God upon the heights. So Peter, so Paul. Again, action alone is found, as in Leah and Martha, while contemplation gleams in Mary and Rachel. Martha, as I think, represents the clergy of our time, with whom the press of business closes the shrine of contemplation, and dries up the sacrifice of tears.

“No one can speak with the Lord while he has to prattle with the whole world. Such a prattler am I, and such a priest, who when I spend the livelong day caring for the herds, have not a moment for the care of souls. Affairs, the enemies of my spirit, come upon me; they claim me for their own, they thieve the private hour of prayer, they defraud the services of the sanctuary, they irritate me with their stings by day and infest my sleep; and what[Pg 145] I can scarcely speak of without tears, the creeping furtive memory of disputes follows me miserable to the altar’s sacraments,—all such are even as the vultures which Abraham drove away from the carcases (Gen. xv. 11).

“Nay more, what untold loss of virtue is entailed by these occupations of the captive mind! While under their power we do not even serve with Martha. She ministered, but to Christ; she bustled about, but for Christ. We truly, who like Martha bustle about, and, like Martha, minister, neither bustle about for Christ nor minister to Him. For if in such bustling ministry thou seekest to win thine own desire, art taken with the gossip of the mob, or with pandering to carnal pleasures, thou art neither the Martha whom thou dost counterfeit nor the Mary for whom thou dost sigh.

“In that case, dearest brother, you would have just cause for grief and tears. But if you do the part of Martha simply, you do well; if, like Jacob, you hasten to and fro between Leah and Rachel, you do better; if with Mary you sit and listen, you do best. For action is good, whose pressing instancy, though it kill contemplation, draws back the brother wandering from Christ. Yet it is better, sometimes seated, to lay aside administrative cares, and amid the irksome nights of Leah, draw fresh life from Rachel’s loved embrace. From this intermixture the course to the celestials becomes more inclusive, for thereby the same soul now strives for the blessedness of men and anon participates in that of the angels. But of the zeal single for Mary, why should I speak? Is not the Saviour’s word enough, ‘Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken from her.’”

And in closing, Hildebert shows his friend the abbot that for him the true course is to follow Jacob interchanging Leah and Rachel; and then in the watches of his pastoral duties the celestial vision shall be also his.[224]

Could any one adjust more fairly this contest, so insistent throughout the annals of mediaeval piety, between active duties and heavenly contemplation? The only solution for abbot and bishop was to join Leah with Rachel. And how clearly Hildebert sees the pervasive peril of the active life, that the prelate be drawn to serve his pleasures and not Christ. Many souls of prelates had that cast into hell!

In theory Hildebert is clear as day, and altogether Christian, so far as we have followed the counsels of these letters. But in fact the quiet life had for him a temptation, to which he yielded himself more generously than to any of[Pg 146] the grosser lures of his high prelacy. This temptation, so alluring and insidious, so fairly masked under the proffer of learning leading to fuller Christian knowledge, was of course the all too beloved pagan literature, and the all too humanly convincing plausibilities of pagan philosophy. Hildebert’s writings evince that kind of classical scholarship which springs only from great study and great love. His soul does not appear to have been riven by a consciousness of sin in this behoof. Sometimes he passes so gently from Christian to pagan ethics, as to lead one to suspect that he did not deeply feel the inconsistency between them. Or again, he seems satisfied with the moral reasonings of paganism, and sets them forth without a qualm. For there was the antique pagan side of our good bishop; and how pagan thoughts and views of life had become a part of Hildebert’s nature, appears in a most interesting letter written to King Henry, consoling him upon the loss of his son and the noble company so gaily sailing from Normandy in that ill-starred White Ship in the year 1120.

Hildebert begins reminding the King how much more it is for a monarch to rule himself than others. Hitherto he has triumphed over fortune, if fortune be anything; now she has wounded him with her sharpest dart. Yet that cannot penetrate the well-guarded mind. It is wisdom not to vaunt oneself in prosperity, nor be overwhelmed with grief in adversity. Hildebert then reasons on the excellence of man’s nature and will; he speaks of the effect of Adam’s sin in loss of grace and entailment of misery on the human race. He quotes from the Old Testament and from Virgil. Then he proceeds more specifically with his fortifying arguments. Their sum is, let the breast of man abound in weapons of defence and contemn the thrusts of fortune; there is nothing over which the triumphant soul may not triumph.

“Unhappy he who lacks this armament; and most unhappy he who besides does not know it. Here Democritus found matter for laughter, Demosthenes (sic) matter for tears. Far be it from thee that the chance cast of things should affect thee so, and the loss of wisdom follow the loss of offspring. Thou hast suffered on dry land more grievous shipwreck than thy son in the brine, if fortune’s storm has wrested wisdom from the wise.”

[Pg 147]After a while Hildebert passes on to consider what is man, and wherein consists his welfare:

“To any one carefully considering what man is, nothing will seem more probable than that he is a divine animal, distinguished by a certain share of divinity (numinis). By bone and flesh he smacks of the earth. By reason his affinity to God is shown. Moses, inspired, certifies that by this prerogative man was created in the image of God. Whence it also follows for man, that he should through reason recognize and love his true good. Now reason teaches that what pertains to virtue is the true good, and that it is within us. The things we temporally possess are good only by opinion (opinione, i.e. not ratione), and these are about us. What is about us is not within our jus but another’s (alterius juris sunt). Chance directs them; they neither come nor stand under our arbitrament. For us they are at the lender’s will (precaria), like a slave belonging to another.[225] Through such, true felicity is neither had nor lost. Indeed no one is happy, no one is wretched by reason of what is another’s. It is his own that makes a man’s good or ill, and whatever is not within him is not his own.”

Then Hildebert speaks of dignities, of wife and child, of the fruits of the earth and riches—bona vaga, bona sunt pennata haec omnia. Men quarrel and struggle about all these things—ecce vides quanta mundus laboret insania.[226]

No one need point out how much more natural this reasoning would have been from the lips of Seneca than from those of an archiepiscopal contemporary of St. Bernard. One may, however, comment on the patent fact that this reflection of the antique in Hildebert’s ethical consolation reflects a manner of reasoning rather than an emotional mood, and in this it is an instance of the general fact that mediaeval methods of reasoning consciously or unconsciously followed the antique; while the emotion, the love and yearning, of mediaeval religion was more largely the gift of Christianity.



[Pg 148]



Classical antiquity lay far back of the mediaeval period, while in the nearer background pressed the centuries of transition, the time of the Church Fathers. The patristic material and a crude knowledge of the antique passed over to the early Middle Ages. Mediaeval progress was to consist, very largely, in the mastery and appropriation of the one and the other.

The varied illustration of these propositions has filled a large portion of this work. In this and the next chapter we are concerned with literature, properly speaking; and with the effect of the Classics, the pure literary antique, upon mediaeval literary productions. The latter are to be viewed as literature; not considering their substance, but their form, their composition, style, and temperamental shading, qualities which show the faculties and temper of their authors. We are to discover, if we can, wherein the qualities of mediaeval literature reflect the Latin Classics, or in any way betray their influence.

It is an affair of dull diligence to learn what Classics were read by the various mediaeval writers; and likewise is it a dull affair to note in mediaeval writings the direct borrowing from the Classics of fact, opinion, sentiment, or phrase. Such borrowing was incessant, resorted to as of course wherever opportunity offered and the knowledge was at hand. It would not commonly occur to a mediaeval writer to state in his own way what he could take from an ancient author, save in so far as change of medium—from prose to verse, or from Latin to the vernacular—compelled[Pg 149] him. So the church builders in Rome never thought of hewing new blocks of stone, or making new columns, when some ancient palace or temple afforded a quarry. The details of such spoliations offer little interest in comparison with the effect of antique architecture upon later styles. So we should like to discover the effect of the ancient compositions upon the mediaeval, and observe how far the faculties and mental processes of classic authors, incorporate in their writings, were transmitted to mediaeval men, to become incorporate in theirs.

Unless you are Virgil or Cicero, you cannot write like Virgil or Cicero. Writing, real writing, that is to say, creative self-expressive composition, is the personal product and closely mirrored reflex of the writer’s temperament and mentality. It gives forth indirectly the influences which have blended in him, education and environment, his past and present. His personality makes his style, his untransmittable style. Yet a group of men affected by the same past, and living at the same time and place, or under like spiritual influences, may show a like faculty and taste. Having more in common with one another than with men of other time, their mental processes, and therefore their ways of writing, will present more common qualities. Around and above them, as well as through their natal and acquired faculties, sweeps the genius of the language, itself the age-long product of a like-minded race. In harmony with it, not in opposition and repugnancy, each writer must, if he will write that language, shape his more personal diction.

Obviously the personal elements in classic writings were no more capable of transmission than the personal qualities of the writers. Likewise, the genius of the Latin language, though one might think it fixed in approved compositions, changed with the spiritual fortune of the Roman people, and constantly transmitted an altered self and novel tenets of construction to control the linguistic usages of succeeding men. None but himself could have written Cicero’s letters. No man of Juvenal’s time could have written the Aeneid, nor any man of the time of Diocletian the histories of Tacitus. There were, however, common elements in these[Pg 150] compositions, all of them possessing certain qualities which are associated with classical writing. These may be difficult to formulate, but they become clear enough in contrast with the qualities of mediaeval Latin literature. The mediaeval man did not feel and reason like a contemporary of Virgil or Cicero; he had not the same training in Greek literature; he did not have the same definitude of conception, did not care so much that a composition should have limit and the unity springing from adherence to a single topic; he did not, in fine, stand on the same level of attainment and faculty and taste with men of the Augustan time. He had his own heights and depths, his own temperament and predilections, his own capacities. Reading the Classics had not transformed him into Cicero or Seneca, or set his feet in the Roman Forum. His feet wandered in the ways of the Middle Ages, and whatever he wrote in prose or verse, in Latin or in his own vernacular, was himself and of himself, and but indirectly due to the antecedent influences which had been transmuted even in entering his nature and becoming part of his temper and faculty.

Any consideration of the knowledge and appreciation of the Classics in the Middle Ages would be followed naturally by a consideration of their effect upon mediaeval composition; which in turn forms part of any discussion of the literary qualities of mediaeval Latin literature. But inasmuch as mediaeval form and diction tend to remove further and further from classical standards, the whole discussion may seem a lucus a non lucendo for all the light it throws upon the effect of the Classics on mediaeval literature. Our best plan will be to note the beginnings of mediaeval Latinity in that post-Augustan and largely patristic diction which had been enriched and reinvigorated with many phrases from daily speech; and then to follow the living if sluggish river as it moves on, receiving increment along its course, its currents mottled with the silt of mediaeval Italy, France, Germany. We shall suppose this flood to divide in rivers of Latin prose and verse; and we may follow them, and see where they overflow their channels, carrying antique flotsam into the ample marshes of vernacular poetry.

[Pg 151]There has always been a difference in diction between speech and literature. At Rome, Cicero and Caesar, and of course the poets, did not, in writing, use quite the language of the people. All the words of daily speech were not taken into the literary or classical vocabulary, which had often quite other words of its own. Moreover the writers, in forming their prose and verse and constructing their compositions, were affected deeply by their study of Greek literature.[227] If Caesar, Cicero, Virgil, and their friends spoke differently from the Roman shopkeepers, there was a still greater difference between their writings and the parlance of the town.

No one need be told that it was the spoken, and not the classical Latin, which in Italy, Spain, Provence, and Northern France developed into Italian, Spanish, Provençal, and French. On the other hand, the descent of written mediaeval Latin from the classical diction or the popular speech, or both, is not so clear, or at least not so simple. It cannot be said that mediaeval Latin came straight from the classical; and manifestly it cannot have sprung from the popular spoken Latin, like the Romance tongues, without other influence or admixture; because then, instead of remaining Latin, it would have become Romance; which it did not. Evidently mediaeval Latin, the literary and to some extent the spoken medium of educated men in the Middle Ages, must have carried classic strains, or have kept itself Latin by the study of Latin grammar and a conscious adherence to a veritable, if not classical, Latin diction. The mediaeval reading of the Classics, and the earnest and constant study of Latin grammar spoken of in the previous chapter, were the chief means by which mediaeval Latin maintained its Latinity. Nevertheless, while it kept the word forms and inflections of classical Latin, with most of the classical vocabulary, it also took up an indefinite[Pg 152] supplement of words from the spoken Latin of the late imperial or patristic period.

In order to understand the genesis and qualities of mediaeval Latin, one must bear in mind (as with most things mediaeval) that its immediate antecedents lie in the transitional fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries, and not in the classical period.[228] Those centuries went far toward declassicizing Latin prose, by departing from the balanced structure of the classic sentences and introducing words from the spoken tongue. The style became less correct, freer, and better suited to the expression of the novel thoughts and interests coming with Christianity. The change is seen in the works of the men to whom it was largely due, Tertullian, Jerome, and other great patristic writers.[229] Such men knew the Classics well, and regarded them as literary models, and yet wrote differently. For a new spirit was upon them and new necessities of expression, and they lived when, even outside of Christian circles, the classic forms of style were loosening with the falling away of the strenuous intellectual temper, the poise, the self-reliance and the self-control distinguishing the classical epoch.

The stylistic genius of Augustine and Jerome was not the genius of the formative beginnings of the Romance tongues, with, for instance, its inability to rely on the close logic of the case ending, and its need to help the meaning by the more explicit preposition. Yet the spirit of these two great men was turning that way. They were not classic writers, but students of the Classics, who assisted their own genius by the study of what no longer was themselves. So in the following centuries the most careful Latin writers are students of the Classics, and do not study Jerome and Augustine for style. Yet their writings carry out the tendencies beginning (or rather not beginning) with these two.

It was not in diction alone that the Fathers were the forerunners of mediaeval writers. Classic Latin authors, both[Pg 153] from themselves and through their study of Greek literature, had the sense and faculty of form. Their works maintain a clear sequence of thought, along with strict pertinency to the main topic, or adherence to the central current of the narrative, avoiding digression and refraining from excessive amplification. The classic writer did not lose himself in his subject, or wander with it wherever it might lead him. But in patristic writings the subject is apt to dominate the man, draw him after its own necessities, or by its casual suggestions cause him to digress. The Fathers in their polemic or expository works became prolix and circumstantial, intent, like a lawyer with a brief, on proving every point and leaving no loophole to the adversary. In their works literary unity and strict sequence of argument may be cast to the winds. Above all, as it seems to us, and as it would have seemed to Caesar or Cicero or Tacitus, allegorical interpretation carries them at its own errant and fantastic will into footless mazes.

Yet whoever will understand and appreciate the writings of the Fathers and of the mediaeval generations after them, should beware of inelastic notions. The question of unity hangs on what the writer deems the veritable topic of his work, and that may be the universal course of the providence of God, which was the subject of Augustine’s Civitas Dei. Indeed, the infinite relationship of any Christian topic was like enough to break through academic limits of literary unity. Likewise, the proper sequence of thought depends on what constitutes the true connection between one matter and another; it must follow what with the writer are the veritable relationships of his topics. If the visible facts of a man’s environment and the narratives of history are to him primarily neither actual facts nor literal narratives, but symbols and allegories of spiritual things, then the true sequence of thought for him is from symbol to symbol and from allegory to allegory. He is justified in ignoring the apparent connection of visible facts and the logic of the literal story, and in surrendering himself to that sequence of thought which follows what is for him the veritable significance of the matter.

Yet here we must apply another standard besides that[Pg 154] of the writer’s conception of his subject’s significance. He should be wise, and not foolish. Other men and later ages will judge him according to their own best wisdom. And with respect to the writings of the Fathers viewed as literature, the modern critic cannot fail to see them entering upon that course of prolixity which in mediaeval writings will develop into the endless; looking forward, he will see their errant habits resolving into the mediaeval lack of determined topic, and their symbolically driven sequences of thought turning into the most ridiculous topical transitions, as the less cogent faculties of later men permit themselves to be suggested anywhither.

The Fathers developed their distinguishing qualities of style and language under the demands of the topics absorbing them, and the influence of modes of feeling coming with Christianity. They were compelling an established language to express novel matter. In the centuries after them, further changes were to come through the linguistic tendencies moulding the evolution of the Romance tongues, through the counter influence of the study of grammar and rhetoric, and also through the ignorance and intellectual limitations of the writers. But as with the Latin of the Fathers, so with the Latin of the Middle Ages, the change of style and language was intimately and spiritually dependent upon the minds and temperaments of the writers and the qualities of the subjects for which they were seeking an expression. A profound influence in the evolution of mediaeval Latin was the continual endeavour of the mediaeval genius to express the thoughts and feelings through which it was becoming itself. With impressive adequacy and power the Christian writers of the Middle Ages moulded their inherited and acquired Latin tongue to utter the varied matters which moved their minds and lifted up their hearts. We marvel to see a language which once had told the stately tale of Rome here lowered to fantastic incident and dull stupidity, then with almost gospel simplicity telling the moving story of some saintly life; again sonorously uttering thoughts to lift men from the earth and denunciations crushing them to hell; quivering with hope and fear and love, and chanting the last verities of the human soul.

[Pg 155]As to the evolution of various styles of written Latin from the close of the patristic period on through the following centuries, one may premise the remark that there would commonly be two opposite influences upon the writer; that of the genius of his native tongue, and that of his education in Latinity. If he lived in a land where Teutonic speech had never given way to the spoken Latin of the Empire, his native tongue would be so different from the Latin which he learned at school, that while it might impede, it could hardly draw to its own genius the learned language. But in Romance countries there was no such absolute difference between the vernacular and the Latin, and the analytic genius of the growing Romance dialects did not fail to affect the latter. Accordingly in France, for example, the spoken Latin dialect, or one may say the genius that was forming the old French dialects to what they were to be, tends to break up the ancient periods, to introduce the auxiliary verb in the place of elaborate inflections, and rely on prepositions instead of case endings, which were disappearing and whose force was ceasing to be felt. One result was to simplify the order of words in a sentence; for it was not possible to move a noun with its accompanying preposition wherever it had been feasible to place a noun whose relation to the rest of the sentence was felt from its case ending. Gregory of Tours is the famous example of these tendencies, with his Historia francorum, an ideal forerunner of Froissart. He became Bishop of Tours in the year 573. In his writings he followed the instincts of the inchoate Romance tongues. He acknowledges and perhaps overstates his ignorance of Latin grammar and the rules of composition. Such ignorance was destined to become still blanker; and ignorance in itself was a disintegrating influence upon written Latin, and also gave freer play to the gathering tendencies of Romance speech.

Evidently, had all these influences worked unchecked, they would have obliterated Latinity from mediaeval Latin. Grammatical and rhetorical education countered them effectively, and the mighty genius of the ancient language endured in the extant masterpieces. Nevertheless the spirit of classical Latinity was never again to be a spontaneous[Pg 156] creative power. The most that men thenceforth could do was to study, and endeavour to imitate, the forms in which it had embodied its living self.

In brief, some of the chief influences upon the writing of Latin in the Middle Ages were: the classical genius dead, leaving only its works for imitation; the school education in Latin grammar and rhetoric; endeavour to follow classic models and write correctly; inability to do so from lack of capacity and knowledge; conscious disregard of classicism; the spirit of the Teutonic tongues clogging Latinity, and that of the Romance tongues deflecting it from classical constructions; and finally, the plastic faculties of advancing Christian mediaeval civilization educing power from confusion, and creating modes of language suited to express the thoughts and feelings of mediaeval men.

The life, that is to say the living development, of mediaeval Latin prose, was to lie in the capacity of successive generations of educated men to maintain a sufficient grammatical correctness, while at the same time writing Latin, not classically, but in accordance with the necessities and spirit of their times. There resulted an enormous literature which was not dead, nor altogether living, and lacked throughout the spontaneity of writings in a mother tongue; for Latin was not the speech of hearth and home, nor everywhere the tongue of the market-place and camp. But it was the language of mediaeval education and acquired culture; it was the language also of the universal church, and, above all other tongues, expressed the thoughts by which men were saved or damned. More profoundly than any vernacular mediaeval literature, the Latin literature of the Middle Ages expresses the mediaeval mind. It thundered with the authority that held the keys of heaven; it was resonant with feeling, and through long centuries gave voice to emotions, shattering, terror-stricken, convulsively loving. When, say with the close of the eleventh century, the mediaeval peoples had absorbed with power the teachings of patristic Christianity, and had undergone some centuries of Latin schooling, and when under these two chief influences certain distinctive and homogeneous ways of thinking, feeling, and looking upon life, had been reached; when, in[Pg 157] fine, the Middle Ages had become themselves and had evolved a genius that could create,—then and from that time appears the adaptability and power of mediaeval Latin to serve the ends of intellectual effort and the expression of emotion.

To estimate the literary qualities of classical Latin is a simpler task than to judge the Latinity and style of the Latin literature of the Middle Ages. Classic Latin prose has a common likeness. In general one feels that what Cicero and Caesar would have rejected, Tacitus and Quintilian would not have admitted. The syntax of these writers shows still greater uniformity. No such common likeness, or avoidance of stylistic aberration and grammatical solecism, obtains in mediaeval prose or verse. The one and the other include many kinds of Latin, and vary from century to century, diversified in idiom and deflected from linguistic uniformity by influences of race and native speech, of ignorance and knowledge. He who would appreciate mediaeval Latin will be diffident of academic standards, and mistrust his classical predilections lest he see aberration and barbarism where he might discover the evolution of new constructions and novel styles; lest he bestow encomium upon clever imitations of classical models, and withhold it from more living creations of the mediaeval spirit. He will realize that to appreciate mediaeval Latin literature, he must shelve his Virgil and his Cicero.[230]

The following pages do not offer themselves even as a slight sketch of mediaeval Latin literature. Their purpose is to indicate the stages of development of the prose and the phases of evolution of the verse; and to illustrate the way in which antique themes and antique knowledge passed into vernacular poetry. Classical standards will supply us less with a point of view than with a point of departure.[Pg 158] Nothing more need be said of the Latin of the Church Fathers and Gregory of Tours. But one must refer to the Carolingian period, in order to appreciate the Latin styles of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

The revival of education and classical scholarship under the strong rule and fostering care of the greatest of mediaeval monarchs has not always been rightly judged. The vision of that prodigious personality ruling, christianizing, striving to civilize masses of barbarians and barbarized descendants of Romans and provincials; at the same time with eager interest endeavouring to revive the culture of the past, and press it into the service of the Christian faith; the striking success of his endeavours, men of learning coming from Ireland, England, Spain, and Italy, creating a peripatetic centre of knowledge at the imperial court, and establishing schools in many a monastery and episcopal residence—all this has never failed to arouse enthusiasm for the great achievement, and has veiled the creative deadness of it all, a deadness which in some provinces of intellectual endeavour was quite veritably moribund, while in others it betokened the necessary preparation for creative epochs to come.[231]

Carolingian scholarship was directed to the mastery of Latin. Grammar was taught, and the rules of composition. Then the scholars were bidden, or bade themselves, do likewise. So they wrote verse or prose according to their school lessons. They might write correctly; but they had no style of their own. This was hopelessly true as to their metrical verses;[232] it was only somewhat less tangibly true of their prose. The “classic” of the period, in the eyes of modern classical scholars and also in the opinion of the mediaeval centuries, is Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne. Numberless encomiums have been passed on it, and justly too. It was an excellent imitation of Suetonius’s Life of Augustus; and the writer had made a careful study of Caesar and Livy.[233] There is no need to quote from a writing so accessible and well known. Yet one remark may be added to what others have said: if Einhard’s composition[Pg 159] was an excellent copy of classical Latin it was nothing else; it has no stylistic individuality.[234]

Turning from this famous biography, we will illustrate our point by quoting from the letters of him who stands as the type of the Carolingian revival, the Anglo-Saxon Alcuin. All praise to this noble educational coadjutor of Charlemagne; his learning was conscientious; his work was important, his character was lovable. His affectionate nature speaks in a letter to his former brethren at York, where his home had been before he entered Charlemagne’s service. Here is a sentence:

“O omnium dilectissimi patres et fratres, memores mei estote; ego vester ero, sive in vita, sive in morte. Et forte miserebitur mei Deus, ut cujus infantiam aluistis, ejus senectutem sepeliatis.”[235]

It were invidious to find fault with this Latin, in which the homesick man expresses his hope of sepulture in his old home. Note also the balance of the following, written to a sick friend:

“Gratias agamus Deo Jesu, vulneranti et medenti, flagellanti et consolanti. Dolor corporis salus est animae, et infirmitas temporalis, sanitas perpetua. Libenter accipiamus, patienter feramus voluntatem Salvatoris nostri.”[236]

This too is excellent, in language as in sentiment. So is another, and last, sentence from our author, in a letter congratulating Charlemagne on his final subjugation of the Huns, through which the survivors were brought to a knowledge of the truth:

“Qualis erit tibi gloria, O beatissime rex, in die aeternae retributionis, quando hi omnes qui per tuam sollicitudinem ab adolatriae cultura ad cognoscendum verum Deum conversi sunt, te ante tribunal Domini nostri Jesu Christi in beata sorte stantem sequentur!”[237]

Again, the only trouble is stylelessness. In fine, an absence[Pg 160] of quality characterizes Carolingian prose, of which a last example may be taken from the Spaniard Theodulphus, Bishop of Orleans, “an accomplished Latin poet,” and an educator yielding in importance to Alcuin alone. The sentence is from an official admonition to the clergy, warning them to attach more value to salvation than to lucre:

“Admonendi sunt qui negotiis ac mercationibus rerum invigilant, ut non plus terrenam quam viam cupiant sempiternam. Nam qui plus de rebus terrenis quam de animae suae salute cogitat, valde a via veritatis aberrat.”[238]

Evidently there was a good knowledge of Latin among these Carolingians, who laboured for the revival of education and the preservation of the Classics. The nadir of classical learning falls in the succeeding period of break-up, confusion, and dawning re-adjustment. In the century or two following the year 850, the writers were too unskilled in Latin and often too cumbered by it, to manifest in their writings that unhampered and distinctive reflex of a personality which we term style. A rare exception would appear in such a potent scholar as Gerbert, who mastered whatever he learned, and made it part of his own faculties and temperament. His letters, consequently, have an individual style, however good or bad we may be disposed to deem it.[239]

Accordingly, until after the millennial year Latin prose shows little beyond a clumsy heaviness resulting from the writer’s insufficient mastery of his medium; and there are many instances of barbarism and corruption of the tongue without any compensating positive qualities. A dreadful example is afforded by the Chronicon of Benedictus, a monk of St. Andrews in Monte Soracte, who lived in the latter part of the tenth century. He relates, as history, the fable of Charlemagne’s journey to the Holy Land; and his own eyes may have witnessed the atrocious times of John XII., of whom he speaks as follows:

“Inter haec non multum tempus Agapitus papa decessit (an. 956). Octabianus in sede sanctissima susceptus est, et vocatus est Johannes duodecimi pape. Factus est tam lubricus sui corporis, et tam audaces, quantum nunc in gentilis populo solebat fieri.[Pg 161] Habebat consuetudinem sepius venandi non quasi apostolicus sed quasi homo ferus. Erat enim cogitio ejus vanum; diligebat collectio feminarum, odibiles aecclesiarum, amabilis juvenis ferocitantes. Tanta denique libidine sui corporis exarsit, quanta nunc (non?) possumus enarrare.”[240]

No need to draw further from this writing, which is characterized throughout by crass ignorance of grammar and all else pertaining to Latin. It has no individual qualities; it has no style. Leaving this example of illiteracy, let us turn to a man of more knowledge, Odo, one of the greatest of the abbots of Cluny, who died in the year 943. He left lengthy writings, one of them a bulky epitome of the famous Moralia of Gregory the Great.[241] More original were his three dull books of Collationes, or moral comments upon the Scriptures. They open with a heavy note which their author might have drawn from the dark temperament of that great pope whom he so deeply admired; but the language has a leaden quality which is not Gregory’s, but Odo’s.

“Auctor igitur et judex hominum Deus, licet ab illa felicitate paradisi genus nostrum juste repulerit, suae tamen bonitatis memor, ne totus reus homo quod meretur incurrat, hujus peregrinationis molestias multis beneficiis demulcet.”

And, again, a little further on:

“Omnis vero ejusdem Scripturae intentio est, ut nos ab hujus vitae pravitatibus compescat. Nam idcirco terribilibus suis sententiis cor nostrum, quasi quibusdam stimulis pungit, ut homo terrore pulsatus expavescat, et divina judicia quae aut voluptate carnis aut terrena sollicitudine discissus oblivisci facile solet, ad memoriam reducat.”[242]

[Pg 162]One feels the dull heaviness of this. Odo, like many of his contemporaries, knew enough of Latin grammar, and had read some of the Classics. But he had not mastered what he knew, and his knowledge was not converted into power. The tenth century was still painfully learning the lessons of its Christian and classical heritage. A similar lack of personal facility may be observed in Ruotger’s biography of Bruno, the worthy brother of the great emperor Otto I., and Archbishop of Cologne. Bruno died in 965, and Ruotger, who had been his companion, wrote his Life without delay. It has not the didactic ponderousness of Odo’s writing, but its language is clumsy. The following passage is of interest as showing Bruno’s education and the kind of learned man it made him.

“Deinde ubi prima grammaticae artis rudimenta percepit, sicut ab ipso in Dei omnipotentis gloriam hoc saepius ruminante didicimus, Prudentium poetam tradente magistro legere coepit. Qui sicut est et fide intentioneque catholicus, et eloquentia veritateque praecipuus, et metrorum librorumque varietate elegantissimus, tanta mox dulcedine palato cordis ejus complacuit, ut jam non tantum exteriorum verborum scientiam, verum intimi medullam sensus, et nectar ut ita dicam liquidissimum, majori quam dici possit aviditate hauriret. Postea nullum penitus erat studiorum liberalium genus in omni Graeca vel Latina eloquentia, quod ingenii sui vivacitatem aufugeret. Nec vero, ut solet, aut divitiarum affluentia, aut turbarum circumstrepentium assiduitas, aut ullum aliunde subrepens fastidium ab hoc nobili otio animum ejus unquam avertit.... Saepe inter Graecorum et Latinorum doctissimos de philosophiae sublimitate aut de cujuslibet in illa florentis disciplinae subtilitate disputantes doctus interpres medius ipse consedit, et disputantibus ad plausum omnium, quo nihil minus amaverat, satisfecit.”[243]

The gradual improvement in the writing of Latin in the[Pg 163] Middle Ages, and the evolution of distinctive mediaeval styles, did not result from a larger acquaintance with the Classics, or a better knowledge of grammar and school rhetoric. The range of classical reading might extend, or from time to time contract, and Donatus and Priscian were used in the ninth century as well as in the twelfth. It is true that the study of grammar became more intelligent in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and its teachers deferred less absolutely to the old rules and illustrations. They recognized Christian standards of diction: first of all the Vulgate; next, early Christian poets like Prudentius; and then gradually the mediaeval versifiers who wrote and won approval in the twelfth century. Thus grammar sought to follow current usage.[244] This endeavour culminated at the close of the twelfth century in the Doctrinale of Alexander of Villa Dei.[245] Before this, much of the best mediaeval Latin prose and verse had been written, and the period most devoted to the Classics had come and was already waning. That period was this same twelfth century. During its earlier half, Latinity gained doubtless from such improvement in the courses of the Trivium as took place at Chartres, for example, an improvement connected with the intellectual growth of the time. But the increase in the knowledge of Latin was mainly such as a mature man may realize within himself, if he has kept up his Latin reading, however little he seem to have added to his knowledge since leaving his Alma Mater.

So the development of mediaeval Latin prose (and also verse) advanced with the maturing of mediaeval civilization. That which was at the same time a living factor in this growth and a result of it, was the more organic appropriation of the classical and Christian heritages of culture and religion. As intellectual faculties strengthened, and men drew power from the past, they gained facility in moulding their Latin[Pg 164] to their purposes. Writings begin to reflect the personalities of the writers; the diction ceases to be that of clumsy or clever school compositions, and presents an evolution of tangible mediaeval styles. Henceforth, although a man be an eager student of the Classics, like John of Salisbury for example, and try to imitate their excellences, he will still write mediaeval Latin, and with a personal style if he be a strong personality. The classical models no longer trammel, but assist him to be more effectively himself on a higher plane.

If mediaeval civilization is to be regarded as that which the peoples of western Europe attained under the two universal influences of Christianity and antique culture, then nothing more mediaeval will be seen than mediaeval Latin. To make it, the antique Latin had been modified and reinspired and loosed by the Christian energies of the Fathers; and had then passed on to peoples who never had been, or no longer were, antique. They barbarized the language down to the rudeness of their faculties. As they themselves advanced, they brought up Latin with them, as it were, from the depths of the ninth and tenth centuries, but a Latin which in the crude natures of these men had been stripped of classical quality; a Latin barbarous and naked, and ready to be clothed upon with novel qualities which should make it a new creature. Throughout all this process, while Latin was sinking and re-emerging, it was worked upon and inspired by the spirit of the uses to which it was predominantly applied, which were those of the Roman Catholic Church and of the intimacies of the Christian soul, pressing to expression in the learned tongue which they were transforming.

In considering the Latin writings of the Middle Ages one should bear in mind the differences between Italy and the North with respect to the ancient language. These were important through the earlier Middle Ages, when modes of diction sufficiently characteristic to be called styles, were forming. The men of Latin-sodden Italy might have a fluent Latin when those of the North still had theirs to learn. Thus there were Italians in the eleventh century who wrote quite a distinctive Latin[Pg 165] prose.[246] Among them were St. Peter Damiani, and St. Anselm of Aosta, Bec, and Canterbury.

The former died full of virtue in the year 1072. We have elsewhere observed his character and followed his career.[247] He was, to his great anxiety, a classical scholar, who had earned large sums as a teacher of rhetoric before natural inclination and fears for his soul drove him to an ascetic life. He was a master of the Latin which he used. His style is intense, eloquent, personal to himself as well as suited to his matter, and reflects his ardent character and keen perceptions. The following is a rhetorical yet beautiful description of a “last leaf,” taken from one of his compositions in praise of the hermit way of salvation.

“Videamus in arbore folium sub ipsis pruinis hiemalibus lapsabundum, et consumpto autumnalis clementiae virore, jamjam pene casurum, ita ut vix ramusculo, cui dependet, inhaereat, sed apertissima levis ruinae signa praetendat: inhorrescunt flabra, venti furentes hic inde concutiunt, brumalis horror crassi aeris rigore densatur: atque, ut magis stupeas, defluentibus reliquis undique foliis terra sternitur, et depositis comis arbor suo decore nudatur; cum illud solum nullo manente permaneat, et velut cohaeredum superstes in fraternae possessionis jura succedat. Quid autem intelligendum in hujus rei consideratione relinquitur, nisi quia nec arboris folium potest cadere, nisi divinum praesumat imperium?”[248]

[Pg 166]Anselm’s diction, in spite of its frequent cloister rhetoric, has a simple and modern word-order. An account has already been given of his life and of his thoughts, so beautifully sky-blue, unpurpled with the crimson of human passion, which made the words of Augustine more veritably incandescent.[249] The great African was the strongest individual influence upon Anselm’s thought and language. But the latter’s style has departed further from the classical sentence, and of itself indicates that the writer belongs neither to the patristic period nor to the Carolingian time, busied with its rearrangement of patristic thought. The following is from his Proslogion upon the existence of God. Through this discourse, Deity and the Soul are addressed in the second person after the manner of Augustine’s Confessions.

“Excita nunc, anima mea, et erige totum intellectum tuum, et cogita quantum potes quale et quantum sit illud bonum (i.e. Deus). Si enim singula bona delectabilia sunt, cogita intente quam delectabile sit illud bonum quod continet jucunditatem omnium bonorum; et non qualem in rebus creatis sumus experti, sed tanto differentem quanto differt Creator a creatura. Si enim bona est vita creata, quam bona est vita creatrix! Si jucunda est salus facta, quam jucunda est salus quae fecit omnem salutem! Si amabilis est sapientia in cognitione rerum conditarum, quam amabilis est sapientia quae omnia condidit ex nihilo! Denique, si multae et magnae delectationes sunt in rebus delectabilibus, qualis et quanta delectatio est in illo qui fecit ipsa delectabilia!”[250]

In a more emotional passage Anselm arouses in his soul the terror of the Judgment. It is from a “Meditatio”:

[Pg 167]“Taedet animam meam vitae meae; vivere erubesco, mori pertimesco. Quid ergo restat tibi, o peccator, nisi ut in tota vita tua plores totam vitam tuam, ut ipsa tota se ploret totam? Sed est in hoc quoque anima mea miserabiliter mirabilis et mirabiliter miserabilis, quia non tantum dolet quantum se noscit; sed sic secura torpet, velut quid patiatur ignoret. O anima sterilis, quid agis? quid torpes, anima peccatrix? Dies judicii venit, juxta est dies Domini magnus, juxta et velox nimis, dies irae dies illa, dies tribulationis et angustiae, dies calamitatis et miseriae, dies tenebrarum et caliginis, dies nebulae et turbinis, dies tubae et clangoris. O vox diei Domini amara! Quid dormitas, anima tepida et digna evomi?”[251]

Damiani wrote in the middle of the eleventh century, Anselm in the latter part. The northern lands could as yet show no such characteristic styles,[252] although the classically educated German, Lambert of Hersfeld, wrote as correctly and perspicuously as either. His Annals have won admiration for their clear and correct Latinity, modelled upon the styles of Sallust and Livy. He died in 1077, the year of Canossa, his Annals covering the conflict between Henry IV. and Hildebrand up to that event. The narrative moves with spirit, as one may see by reading his description of King Henry and his consort struggling through Alpine ice and snow to reach that castle never to be forgotten, and gain absolution from the Pope before the ban should have completed Henry’s ruin.[253]

For the North, the best period of mediaeval Latin,[Pg 168] prose as well as verse, opens with the twelfth century. It was indeed the great literary period of the Middle Ages. For the vernacular literatures flourished as well as the Latin. Provençal literature began as the eleventh century closed, and was stifled in the thirteenth by the Albigensian Crusade. So the twelfth was its great period. Likewise with the Old French literature: except the Roland which is earlier, the chief chansons de geste belong to the twelfth century; also the romances of antiquity, to be spoken of hereafter; also the romances of the Round Table, and a great mass of chansons and fabliaux. The Old German—or rather, Mittel Hochdeutsch—literature touches its height as the century closes and the next begins, in the works of Heinrich von Veldeke, Gottfried von Strassburg, Wolfram von Eschenbach, and Walther von der Vogelweide.

The best Latin writers of the century lived, or sojourned, or were educated, for the most part in the France north of the Loire. Not that all of them were natives of that territory; for some were German born, some saw the light in England, and the birthplace of many is unknown. Yet they seem to belong to France. Nearly all were ecclesiastics, secular or regular. Many of them were notables in theology, like Hugo of St. Victor, Abaelard, Alanus de Insulis (Lille); many were poets as well, like Alanus and Hildebert and John of Salisbury too; one was a thunderer on the earth, and a most deft politician, Bernard of Clairvaux. Some again are known only as poets, sacred or profane, like Adam of St. Victor, and Walter of Chatillon—but of these hereafter. The best Latin prose writing of this, or any other, mediaeval period, had its definite purpose, metaphysical, theological, or pietistic; and the writers have been or will be spoken of in connection with their specific fields of intellectual achievement or religious fervour. Here, without discussing the men or their works, some favourable examples of their writing will be given.

In the last passage quoted from Anselm, the reader must have felt the working of cloister rhetoric, and have noticed the antitheses and rhymes, to which mediaeval Latin lent itself so readily. Yet it is a slight affair compared with the confounding sonorousness, the flaring pictures, and[Pg 169] terrifying climaxes of St. Bernard when preaching upon the same topic—the Judgment Day. In one of his famous sermons on Canticles, the saint has been suggesting to his audience, the monks of Clara Vallis, that although the Father might ignore faults, not so the Dominus and Creator: “et qui parcit filio, non parcet figmento, non parcet servo nequam.” Listen to the carrying out and pointing of this thought:

“Pensa cujus sit formidinis et horroris tuum atque omnium contempsisse factorem, offendisse Dominum majestatis. Majestatis est timeri, Domini est timeri, et maxime hujus majestatis, hujusque Domini. Nam si reum regiae majestatis, quamvis humanae, humanis legibus plecti capite sancitum sit, quis finis contemnentium divinam omnipotentiam erit? Tangit montes, et fumigant; et tam tremendam majestatem audet irritare vilis pulvisculus, uno levi flatu mox dispergendus, et minime recolligendus? Ille, ille timendus est, qui postquam acciderit corpus, potestatem habet mittere et in gehennam. Paveo gehennam, paveo judicis vultum, ipsis quoque tremendum angelicis potestatibus. Contremisco ab ira potentis, a facie furoris ejus, a fragore ruentis mundi, a conflagratione elementorum, a tempestate valida, a voce archangeli, et a verbo aspero. [Feel the climax of this sentence, which tells the end of the sinner.] Contremisco a dentibus bestiae infernalis, a ventre inferi, a rugientibus praeparatis ad escam. Horreo vermem rodentem, et ignem torrentem, fumum, et vaporem, et sulphur, et spiritum procellarum; horreo tenebras exteriores. Quis dabit capiti meo aquam, et oculis meis fontem lacrymarum ut praeveniam fletibus fletum, et stridorem dentium, et manuum pedumque dura vincula, et pondus catenarum prementium, stringentium, urentium, nec consumentium? Heu me, mater mea! utquid me genuisti filium doloris, filium amaritudinis, indignationis et plorationis aeternae? Cur exceptus genibus, cur lactatus uberibus, natus in combustionem, et cibus ignis?”[254]

As one recovers from the sound and power of this high-wrought passage, he notices how readily it might be turned into the form of a Latin hymn; and also how very modern is its sequence of words. Bernard’s Latin could whisper[Pg 170] intimate love, as well as thunder terror. He says, preaching on the medicina, the healing power, of Jesu’s name:

“Hoc tibi electuarium habes, o anima mea, reconditum in vasculo vocabuli hujus quod est Jesus, salutiferum, certe, quodque nulli unquam pesti tuae inveniatur inefficax.”[255]

With the music of this prose one may compare the sweet personal plaint of the following:

“Felices quos abscondit in tabernaculo suo in umbra alarum suarum sperantes, donec transeat iniquitas. Caeterum ego infelix, pauper et nudus, homo natus ad laborem, implumis avicula pene omni tempore nidulo exsulans, vento exposita et turbini, turbatus sum et motus sum sicut ebrius, et omnis conscientia mea devorata est.”[256]

Extracts can give no idea of Bernard’s literary powers, any more than a small volume could tell the story of that life which, so to speak, was magna pars of all contemporary history. But since he was one of the best of Latin letter-writers, one should not omit an example of his varied epistolary style, which can be known in its compass only from a large reading of his letters. The following is a short letter, written to win back to the cloister a delicately nurtured youth whose parents had lured him out into the world.

“Doleo super te, fili mi Gaufride, doleo super te. Et merito. Quis enim non doleat florem juventutis tuae, quem laetantibus angelis Deo illibatum obtuleras in odorem suavitatis, nunc a daemonibus conculcari, vitiorum spurcitiis, et saeculi sordibus inquinari? Quomodo qui vocatus eras a Deo, revocantem diabolum sequeris, et quem Christus trahere coeperat post se, repente pedem ab ipso introitu gloriae retraxisti? In te experior nunc veritatem sermonis Domini, quem dixit: Inimici hominis, domestici ejus (Matt. x. 36). Amici tui et proximi tui adversum te appropinquaverunt, et steterunt. Revocaverunt te in fauces leonis, et in portis mortis iterum collocaverunt te. Collocaverunt te in obscuris, sicut mortuos saeculi: et jam parum est ut descendas in ventrem inferi; jam te deglutire festinat, ac rugientibus praeparatis ad escam tradere devorandum.

“Revertere, quaeso, revertere, priusquam te absorbeat profundum, et urgeat super te puteus os suum; priusquam demergaris, unde ulterius non emergas; priusquam ligatis manibus et pedibus projiciaris in tenebras exteriores, ubi est fletus et stridor dentium;[Pg 171] priusquam detrudaris in locum tenebrosum, et opertum mortis caligine. Erubescis forte redire, quia ad horam cessisti. Erubesce fugam, et non post fugam reverti in proelium, et rursum pugnare. Necdum finis pugnae, necdum ab invicem dimicantes acies discesserunt: adhuc victoria prae manibus est. Si vis, nolumus vincere sine te, nec tuam tibi invidemus gloriae portionem. Laeti occuremus tibi, laetis te recipiemus amplexibus, dicemusque: Epulari et gaudere oportet, quia hic filius noster mortuus fuerat, et revixit; perierat, et inventus est” (Luc. xv. 32).[257]

The argument of this letter is, from the standpoint of Bernard’s time, as resistless as the style. Did it win back the little monk? Many wonderful examples of loving expression could be drawn from Bernard’s letters;[258] but instead an instance may be given of his none too subtle way of uttering his hate: “Arnaldus de Brixia, cujus conversatio mel et doctrina venenum, cui caput columbae, cauda scorpionis est, quem Brixia evomuit, Roma exhorruit, Francia repulit, Germania abominatur, Italia non vult recipere, fertur esse vobiscum.”[259] And then he proceeds to warn his correspondent of the danger of intercourse with this arch-enemy of the Church.

Considering that Latin was a tongue which youths learned at school rather than at their mothers’ knees, such writing as Bernard’s is a triumphant recasting of an ancient language. One notices in him, as generally with mediaeval religious writers, the influence of the Vulgate, which was mainly in the language of St. Jerome—of Jerome when not writing as a literary virtuoso, but as a scholar occupied with rendering the meaning, and willing to accept such linguistic innovations as served his purpose.[260] But beyond this influence, one sees how masterful is Bernard’s diction, quite freed from observance of classical principles, quite of the writer and his time, adapting itself with ease and power to the topic and character of the composition, and always expressive of the personality of the mighty saint.

[Pg 172]Hildebert of Le Mans was a few years older than St. Bernard. As an example of his prose a letter may be cited, of which the translation has been given. It was written in 1128, when he was Archbishop of Tours, in protest against the encroachments of the royal power of the French king, Louis the Fat, upon the rights of the Archiepiscopacy of Tours in the matter of ecclesiastical appointments within that diocese:

“In adversis nonnullum solatium est, tempora sperare laetiora. Diutius spes haec mihi blandita est, et velut agricolam messis in herba, sic animum meum prosperitatis expectatio confortavit. Caeterum jam nihil est quo serenitatem nimbosi temporis exspectem, nihil est quo navis, in cujus puppi sedeo, crebris agitata turbinibus, portum quietis attingat.

“Silent amici, silent sacerdotes Jesu Christi. Denique silent et illi quorum suffragio credidi regem mecum in gratiam rediturum. Credidi quidem, sed super dolorem vulnerum meorum rex, illis silentibus, adjecit. Eorum tamen erat gravamini ecclesiae canonicis obviare institutis. Eorum erat, si res postulasset, opponere murum pro domo Israel. Verum apud serenissimum regem opus est exhortatione potius quam increpatione, consilio quam praecepto, doctrina quam virga. His ille conveniendus fuit, his reverenter instruendus, ne sagittas suas in sene compleret sacerdote, ne sanctiones canonicas evacuaret, ne persequeretur cineres Ecclesiae jam sepultae, cineres in quibus ego panem doloris manduco, in quibus bibo calicem luctus, de quibus eripi et evadere, de morte ad vitam transire est.

“Inter has tamen angustias, nunquam de me sic ira triumphavit, ut aliquem super Christo Domini clamorem deponere vellem, seu pacem ipsius in manu forti et brachio Ecclesiae adipisci. Suspecta est pax ad quam, non amore sed vi, sublimes veniunt potestates. Ea facile rescindetur, et fiunt aliquando novissima pejora prioribus. Alia est via qua compendiosius ad eam Christo perducente pertingam. Jactabo cogitatum meum in Domino, et ipse dabit mihi petitionem cordis mei. Recordatus est Dominus Joseph, cujus pincerna Pharaonis oblitus, dum prospera succederent, interveniendi pro eo curam abjecit.... Fortassis recordabitur et mei, atque in desiderato littore navem sistet fluctuantem. Ipse enim est qui respicit in orationem humilium, et non spernit preces eorum. Ipse est in cujus manu corda regum cerea sunt. Si invenero gratiam in oculis ejus, gratiam regis vel facile consequar, vel utiliter amittam. Siquidem offendere hominem proper Deum lucrari est gratiam Dei.”[261]

[Pg 173]John of Salisbury (1110-1180), much younger than Hildebert and a little younger than Bernard, seems to have been the best scholar of his time. With the Classics he is as one in the company of friends; he cites them as readily as Scripture; their sententiae have become part of his views of life. John was an eager humanist, who followed his studies to whatever town and to the feet of whatsoever teacher they might lead him. So he listened to Abaelard and many others. His writing is always lively and often forcible, especially when vituperating the set who despised classic reading. His most vivacious work, the Metalogicus, was directed against their unnamed prophet, whom he dubs “Cornificus.”[262] Its opening passage is of interest as John’s exordium, and because a somewhat consciously intending stylist like our John is likely to exhibit his utmost virtuosity in the opening sentences of an important work:

“Adversus insigne donum naturae parentis et gratiae, calumniam veterem et majorum nostrorum judicio condemnatam excitat improbus litigator, et conquirens undique imperitiae suae solatia, sibi proficere sperat ad gloriam, si multos similes sui, id est si eos viderit imperitos; habet enim hoc proprium arrogantiae tumor, ut se commetiatur aliis, bona sua, si qua sunt, efferens, deprimens aliena; defectumque proximi, suum putet esse profectum. Omnibus autem recte sapientibus indubium est quod natura, clementissima parens omnium, et dispositissima moderatrix, inter caetera quae genuit animantia, hominem privilegio rationis extulit, et usu eloquii insignivit: id agens sedulitate officiosa, et lege dispositissima, ut homo qui gravedine faeculentioris naturae et molis corporeae tarditate premebatur et trahebatur ad ima, his quasi subvectus alis, ad alta ascendat, et ad obtinendum verae beatitudinis bravium, omnia alia felici compendio antecebat. Dum itaque naturam fecundat gratia, ratio rebus perspiciendis et examinandis invigilat; naturae sinus excutit, metitur fructus et efficaciam singulorum: et innatus omnibus amor boni, naturali urgente se appetitu, hoc, aut solum, aut prae caeteris sequitur, quod percipiendae beatitudini maxime videtur esse accommodum.”[263]

[Pg 174]One perceives the effect of classical studies; yet the passage is good twelfth-century Latin, quite different from the compositions of the Carolingian epoch, those, for example, from the pen of Alcuin, who had studied the Classics like John, but unlike him had no personal style. One gains similar impressions from the diction of the Polycraticus, a lengthy, discursive work in which John surprises us with his classical equipment. Although containing many quoted passages, it is not made of extracts strung together; but reflects the sentiments or tells the opinions of ancient philosophers in the writer’s own way. The following shows John’s knowledge of early Greek philosophers, and is a fair example of his ordinary style:

“Alterum vero philosophorum genus est, quod Ionicum dicitur et a Graecis ulterioribus traxit originem. Horum princeps fuit Thales Milesius, unus illorum septem, qui dicti sunt sapientes. Iste cum rerum naturam scrutatus, inter caeteros emicuisset, maxime admirabilis exstitit, quod astrologiae numeris comprehensis, solis et lunae defectus praedicebat. Huic successit Anaximander ejus auditor, qui Anaximenem discipulum reliquit et successorem. Diogenes quoque ejusdem auditor exstitit, et Anaxagoras, qui omnium rerum quas videmus, effectorem divinum animum docuit. Ei successit auditor ejus Archelaüs, cujus discipulus Socrates fuisse perhibetur, magister Platonis, qui, teste Apuleio, prius Aristoteles dictus est, sed deinde a latitudine pectoris Plato, et in tantam eminentiam philosophiae, et vigore ingenii, et studii exercitio, et omnium morum venustate, eloquii quoque suavitate et copia subvectus est, ut quasi in throno sapientiae residens, praecepta quadam auctoritate visus est, tam antecessoribus quam successoribus[Pg 175] philosophis, imperare. Et primus quidem Socrates universam philosophiam ad corrigendos componendosque mores flexisse memoratur, cum ante illum omnes physicis, id est rebus naturalibus perscrutandis, maximam operam dederint.”[264]

These extracts from the writings of saints and scholars may be supplemented by two extracts from compositions of another class. The mediaeval chronicle has not a good reputation. Its credulity and uncritical spirit varied with the time and man. Little can be said in favour of its general form, which usually is stupidly chronological, or annalistic. The example of classical historical composition was lost on mediaeval annalists. Yet their work is not always dull; and, by the twelfth century, their diction had become as mediaeval as that of the theologian rhetoricians, although it rarely crystallizes to personal style by reason of the insignificance of the writers. A well-known work of this kind is the Gesta Dei per Francos, by Guibert of Nogent, who wrote his account of the First Crusade a few years after its turmoil had passed by. The following passage tells of proceedings upon the conclusion of Urban’s great crusading oration at the Council of Clermont in 1099:

“Peroraverat vir excellentissimus, et omnes qui se ituros voverant, beati Petri potestate absolvit, eadem, ipsa apostolica auctoritate firmavit, et signum satis conveniens hujus tam honestae professionis instituit, et veluti cingulum militiae, vel potius militaturis Deo passionis Dominicae stigma tradens, crucis figuram, ex cujuslibet[Pg 176] materiae panni, tunicis, byrris et palliis iturorum, assui mandavit. Quod si quis, post hujus signi acceptionem, aut post evidentis voti pollicitationem ab ista benevolentia, prava poenitudine, aut aliquorum suorum affectione resileret, ut exlex perpetuo haberetur omnino praecepit, nisi resipisceret; idemque quod omiserat foede repeteret. Praeterea omnes illos atroci damnavit anathemate, qui eorum uxoribus, filiis, aut possessionibus, qui hoc Dei iter aggrederentur, per integrum triennii tempus, molestiam auderent inferre. Ad extremum, cuidam viro omnimodis laudibus efferendo, Podiensis urbis episcopo, cujus nomen doleo quia neque usquam reperi, nec audivi, curam super eadem expeditione regenda contulit, et vices suas ipsi, super Christiani populi quocunque venirent institutione, commisit. Unde et manus ei, more apostolorum, data pariter benedictione, imposuit. Quod ille quam sagaciter sit exsecutus, docet mirabilis operis tanti exitus.”[265]

This Frenchman Guibert is almost vivacious. A certain younger contemporary of his, of English birth, could construct his narrative quite as well. Ordericus Vitalis (d. 1142) is said to have been born at Wroxeter, though he spent most of his life as monk of St. Evroult in Normandy. There he wrote his Historia Ecclesiastica of Normandy and England. His account of the loss of the White Ship in 1120 tells the story:

“Thomas, filius Stephani, regem adiit, eique marcum auri offerens, ait: ‘Stephanus, Airardi filius, genitor meus fuit, et ipse[Pg 177] in omni vita sua patri tuo in mari servivit. Nam illum, in sua puppe vectum, in Angliam conduxit, quando contra Haraldum pugnaturus, in Angliam perrexit. Hujusmodi autem officio usque ad mortem famulando ei placuit, et ab eo multis honoratus exeniis, inter contribules suos magnifice floruit. Hoc feudum, domine rex, a te requiro, et vas quod Candida-Navis appellatur, merito ad regalem famulatum optime instructum habeo.’ Cui rex ait: ‘Gratum habeo quod petis. Mihi quidem aptam navim elegi, quam non mutabo; sed filios meos, Guillelmum et Richardum, quos sicut me diligo, cum multa regni mei nobilitate, nunc tibi commendo.’

“His auditis, nautae gavisi sunt, filioque regis adulantes, vinum ab eo ad bibendum postulaverunt. At ille tres vini modios ipsis dari praecepit. Quibus acceptis, biberunt, sociisque abundanter propinaverunt, nimiumque potantes inebriati sunt. Jussu regis multi barones cum filiis suis puppim ascenderunt, et fere trecenti, ut opinor, in infausta nave fuerunt. Duo siquidem monachi Tironis, et Stephanus comes cum duobus militibus, Guillelmus quoque de Rolmara, et Rabellus Camerarius, Eduardus de Salesburia, et alii plures inde exierunt, quia nimiam multitudinem lascivae et pompaticae juventutis inesse conspicati sunt. Periti enim remiges quinquaginta ibi erant, et feroces epibatae, qui jam in navi sedes nacti turgebant, et suimet prae ebrietate immemores, vix aliquem reverenter agnoscebant. Heu! quamplures illorum mentes pia devotione erga Deum habebant vacuas

‘Qui maris immodicas moderatur et aeris iras.’

Unde sacerdotes, qui ad benedicendos illos illuc accesserant, aliosque ministros qui aquam benedictam deferebant, cum dedecore et cachinnis subsannantes abigerunt; sed paulo post derisionis suae ultionem receperunt.

“Soli homines, cum thesauro regis et vasis merum ferentibus, Thomae carinam implebant, ipsumque ut regiam classem, quae jam aequora sulcabat, summopere prosequeretur, commonebant. Ipse vero, quia ebrietate desipiebat, in virtute sua, satellitumque suorum confidebat, et audacter, quia omnes qui jam praecesserant praeiret, spondebat. Tandem navigandi signum dedit. Porro schippae remos haud segniter arripuerunt, et alia laeti, quia quid eis ante oculos penderet nesciebant, armamenta coaptaverunt, navemque cum impetu magno per pontum currere fecerunt. Cumque remiges ebrii totis navigarent conatibus, et infelix gubernio male intenderet cursui dirigendo per pelagus, ingenti saxo quod quotidie fluctu recedente detegitur et rursus accessu maris cooperitur, sinistrum latus Candidae-Navis vehementer illisum est, confractisque duabus tabulis, ex insperato, navis, proh dolor! subversa est. Omnes igitur in tanto discrimine simul exclamaverunt;[Pg 178] sed aqua mox implente ora, pariter perierunt. Duo soli virgae qua velum pendebat manus injecerunt, et magna noctis parte pendentes, auxilium quodlibet praestolati sunt. Unus erat Rothomagensis carnifex, nomine Beroldus, et alter generosus puer, nomine Goisfredus, Gisleberti de Aquila filius.

“Tunc luna in signo Tauri nona decima fuit, et fere ix horis radiis suis mundum illustravit, et navigantibus mare lucidum reddidit. Thomas nauclerus post primam submersionem vires resumpsit, suique memor, super undas caput extulit, et videns capita eorum qui ligno utcunque inhaerebant, interrogavit: ‘Filius regis quid devenit?’ Cumque naufragi respondissent illum cum omnibus collegis suis deperisse: ‘Miserum,’ inquit, ‘est amodo meum vivere.’ Hoc dicto, male desperans, maluit illic occumbere, quam furore irati regis pro pernicie prolis oppetere, seu longas in vinculis poenas luere.”[266]

[Pg 179]Our examples thus far belong to the twelfth century. As touching its successor, it will be interesting to observe the qualities of two opposite kinds of writing, the one springing from the intellectual activities, and the other from the religious awakening, of the time. In the thirteenth century, scientific and scholastic writing was of representative importance, and deeply affected the development of Latin prose. Very different in style were the Latin stories and vitae of the blessed Francis of Assisi and other saints, composed in Italy.

Roger Bacon, of whom there will be much to say, composed most of his extant works about the year 1267.[267] His language is often rough and involved, from his impetuosity and eagerness to utter what was in him. But it is always vigorous. He took pains to say just what he meant, and what was worth saying; and frequently rewrote his sentences. His writings show little rhetoric; yet they are stamped with a Baconian style, which has a cumulative force. The word-order is modern with scarcely a trace of the antique. Perhaps we may say that he wrote Latin like an Englishman of vehement temper and great intellect. He is powerful in continuous exposition; yet instances of his general, and very striking statements, will illustrate his diction at its best. In the following sentence he recognizes the progressiveness of knowledge, a rare idea in the Middle Ages:

[Pg 180]“Nam semper posteriores addiderunt ad opera priorum, et multa correxerunt, et plura mutaverunt, sicut maxime per Aristotelem patet, qui omnes sententias praecedentium discussit.”[268]

Again, he animadverts upon the duty of thirteenth-century Christians to supply the defects of the old philosophers:

“Quapropter antiquorum defectus deberemus nos posteriores supplere, quia introivimus in labores eorum, per quos, nisi simus asini, possumus ad meliora excitari; quia miserrimum est semper uti inventis et nunquam inveniendis.”[269]

Speaking of language, he says:

“Impossibile est quod proprietas unius linguae servetur in alia.”[270] (“The idioms of one language cannot be preserved in a translation.”) And again: “Omnes philosophi fuerunt post patriarchas et prophetas ... et legerunt libros prophetarum et patriarcharum qui sunt in sacro textu.”[271] (“The philosophers of Greece came after the prophets of the Old Testament and read their works contained in the sacred text.”)

In the first of these sentences Bacon shows his linguistic insight; in the second he reflects an uncritical view entertained since the time of the Church Fathers; in both, he writes with an order of words requiring no change in an English translation.

In his time, Bacon had but a sorry fame, and his works no influence. The writings of his younger contemporary Thomas Aquinas exerted greater influence than those of any man after Augustine. They represent the culmination of scholasticism. He was Italian born, and his language, however difficult the matter, is lucidity itself. It is never rhetorical; but measured, temperate, and balanced; properly proceeding from the mind which weighed every proposition in the scales of universal consideration. Sometimes it gains a certain fervour from the clarity and import of the statement which it so lucidly conveys. In article eighth, of the first Questio, of Pars Prima of the Summa theologiae, Thomas thus decides that Theology is a rational (argumentativa) science:

[Pg 181]“Respondeo dicendum quod, sicut aliae scientiae non argumentantur ad sua principia probanda, sed ex principiis argumentantur ad ostendendum alia in ipsis scientiis; ita haec doctrina non argumentatur ad sua principia probanda, quae sunt articuli fidei; sed ex eis procedit ad aliquid aliud ostendendum; sicut Apostolus I ad Cor. xv., ex resurrectione Christi argumentatur ad resurrectionem communem probandam.

“Sed tamen considerandum est in scientiis philosophicis, quod inferiores scientiae nec probant sua principia, nec contra negantem principia disputant, sed hoc relinquunt superiori scientiae: suprema vero inter eas, scilicet metaphysica, disputat contra negantem sua principia, si adversarius aliquid concedit: si autem nihil concedit, non potest cum eo disputare, potest tamen solvere rationes ipsius. Unde sacra scriptura (i.e. Theology), cum non habeat superiorem, disputat cum negante sua principia: argumentando quidem, si adversarius aliquid concedat eorum quae per divinam revelationem habentur; sicut per auctoritates sacrae doctrinae disputamus contra hereticos, et per unum articulum contra negantes alium. Si vero adversarius nihil credat eorum quae divinitus revelantur, non remanet amplius via ad probandum articulos fidei per rationes, sed ad solvendum rationes, si quas inducit, contra fidem. Cum enim fides infallibili veritati innitatur, impossibile autem sit de vero demonstrari contrarium, manifestum est probationes quae contra fidem inducuntur, non esse demonstrationes, sed solubilia argumenta.”[272]

Of a different intellectual temperament was John of Fidanza, known as St. Bonaventura.[273] He also was born and passed his youth in Italy. This sainted General of the Franciscan Order was a few years older than the great Dominican, who was his friend. Both doctors died in the year 1274. Bonaventura’s powers of constructive reasoning were excellent. His diction is clear and beautiful, and eloquent with a spiritual fervour whenever the matter is such as to evoke it. His account of how he came to write his famous little Itinerarium mentis in Deum is full of temperament.

“Cum igitur exemplo beatissimi patris Francisci hanc pacem anhelo spiritu quaererem, ego peccator, qui loco ipsius patris beatissimi post eius transitum septimus in generali fratrum ministerio per omnia indignus succedo; contigit, ut nutu divino circa Beati ipsius transitum, anno trigesimo tertio ad montem Alvernae tanquam ad locum quietum amore quaerendi pacem spiritus declinarem, ibique existens, dum mente tractarem aliquas mentales[Pg 182] ascensiones in Deum, inter alia occurrit illud miraculum, quod in praedicto loco contigit ipsi beato Francisco, de visione scilicet Seraph alati ad instar Crucifixi. In cuius consideratione statim visum est mihi, quod visio illa praetenderet ipsius patris suspensionem in contemplando et viam, per quam pervenitur ad eam.”[274]

And Bonaventura at the end of his Itinerarium speaks of the perfect passing of Francis into God through the very mystic climax of contemplation, concluding thus:

“Si autem quaeras, quomodo haec fiant, interroga gratiam, non doctrinam; desiderium, non intellectum; gemitum orationis, non studium lectionis; sponsum, non magistrum; Deum, non hominem; caliginem, non claritatem; non lucem, sed ignem totaliter inflammantem et in Deum excessivis unctionibus et ardentissimis affectionibus transferentem.”[275]

Bonaventura’s fervent diction will serve to carry us over from the more unmitigated intellectuality of Bacon and Thomas to the simpler matter of those personal and pious narratives from which may be drawn concluding illustrations of mediaeval Latin prose. Some of the authors will show the skill which comes from training; others are quite innocent of grammar, and their Latin has made a happy surrender to the genius of their vernacular speech, which was the lingua vulgaris of northern Italy.

One of the earliest biographers of St. Francis of Assisi was Thomas of Celano, a skilled Latinist, who was enraptured with the loveliness of Francis’s life. His diction is limpid and rhythmical. A well-known passage in his Vita prima (for he wrote two Lives) tells of Francis’s joyous assurance of the great work which God would accomplish through the simple band who formed the beginnings of the Order. This assurance crystallized in a vision of multitudes hurrying to join. Francis speaks to the brethren:

“Confortamini, charissimi, et gaudete in Domino, nec, quia pauci videmini, efficiamini tristes. Ne vos deterreat mea, vel vestra simplicitas, quoniam sicut mihi a Domino in veritate ostensum est, in maximam multitudinem faciet vos crescere Deus, et usque ad fines orbis multipliciter dilatabit. Vidi multitudinem magnam hominum ad nos venientium, et in habitu sanctae conversationis beataeque religionis regula nobiscum volentium conversari; et ecce[Pg 183] adhuc sonitus eorum est in auribus meis, euntium, et redeuntium secundum obedientiae sanctae mandatum: vidique vias ipsorum multitudine plenas ex omni fere natione in his partibus convenire. Veniunt Francigenae, festinant Hispani, Teuthonici, et Anglici currunt, et aliarum diversarum linguarum accelerat maxima multitudo.

“Quod cum audissent fratres, repleti sunt gaudio Salvatoris sive propter gratiam, quam dominus Deus contulerat sancto suo, sive quia proximorum lucrum sitiebant ardenter, quos desiderabant ut salvi essent, in idipsum quotidie augmentari.”[276]

We feel the flow and rhythm, and note the agreeable balancing of clauses. Francis died in 1226. The Vita prima by Celano was approved by Gregory IX. in 1229. Already other matter touching the saint was gathering in anecdote and narrative. Much of it was brought together in the so-called Speculum perfectionis, which has been confidently but very questionably ascribed to Francis’s personal disciple, Brother Leo. Brother Leo, or whoever may have been the narrator or compiler, was no scholar; his Latin is naively incorrect, and has also the simplicity of Gospel narrative. Indeed this Latin is as effectively “vulgarized” as the Greek of Matthew’s Gospel. An interesting passage tells with what loving wisdom Francis interpreted a text of Scripture:

“Manente ipso apud Senas venit ad eum quidam doctor sacrae theologiae de ordine Praedicatorum, vir utique humilis et spiritualis valde. Quum ipse cum beato Francisco de verbis Domini simul aliquamdiu contulissent interrogavit eum magister de illo verbo Ezechielis: Si non annuntiaveris impio impietatem suam animam ejus de manu tua requiram. Dixit enim: ‘Multos, bone pater, ego cognosco in peccato mortali quibus non annuntio impietatem eorum, numquid de manu mea ipsorum animae requirentur?’

“Cui beatus Franciscus humiliter dixit se esse idiotam et ideo magis expedire sibi doceri ab eo quam super scripturae sententiam respondere. Tunc ille humilis magister adjecit: ‘Frater, licet ab aliquibus sapientibus hujus verbi expositionem audiverim, tamen libenter super hoc vestrum perciperem intellectum.’ Dixit ergo beatus Franciscus: ‘Si verbum debeat generaliter intelligi, ego taliter accipio ipsum quod servus Dei sic debet vita et sanctitate in seipso ardere vel fulgere ut luce exempli et lingua sanctae conversationis omnes impios reprehendat. Sic, inquam, splendor ejus et odor famae ipsius annuntiabit omnibus iniquitates eorum.’

“Plurimum itaque doctor ille aedificatus recedens dixit sociis[Pg 184] beati Francisci: ‘Fratres mei, theologia hujus viri puritate et contemplatione subnixa est aquila volans, nostra vero scientia ventre graditur super terram.’”[277]

Another passage has Francis breaking out in song from the joy of his love of Christ:

“Ebrius amore et compassione Christi beatus Franciscus quandoque talia faciebat, nam dulcissima melodia spiritus intra se ipsum ebulliens frequenter exterius gallice dabat sonum et vena divini susurrii quam auris ejus suscipiebat furtive gallicum erumpebat in jubilum.

“Lignum quandoque colligebat de terra ipsumque sinistro brachio superponens aliud lignum per modum arcus in manu dextera trahebat super illud, quasi super viellam vel aliud instrumentum atque gestus ad hoc idoneos faciens gallice cantabat de Domino Jesu Christo. Terminabatur denique tota haec tripudiatio in lacrymas et in compassionem passionis Christi hic jubilus solvebatur.

“In his trahebat continue suspiria et ingeminatis gemitibus eorum quae tenebat in manibus oblitus suspendebatur ad caelum.”[278]

This Latin is as childlike as the Old Italian of the Fioretti of St. Francis; it has a like word-order, and one might almost add, a like vocabulary. The simple, ignorant writer seems as if held by a direct and personal inspiration from the familiar life of the sweet saint. His language reflects that inspiration, and mirrors his own childlike character. Hence he has a style, direct, effective, moving to tears and joy, like his impression of the blessed Francis.

A not dissimilar kind of childlike Latin could attain to a remarkable symmetry and balance. The Legenda aurea is before us, written by the Dominican Jacobus à Voragine, by race a Genoese, and living toward the close of the thirteenth century. This book was the most popular compend of saints’ lives in use in the later Middle Ages. Its stories are told with fascinating naïveté. We cite the opening sentences from its chapter on the Annunciation, just to show the harmony and balance of its periods. The passage is exceptional and almost formal in these qualities:

“Annunciatio dominica dicitur, quia in tali die ab angelo adventus filii Dei in carnem fuit annuntiatus, congruum enim fuit,[Pg 185] ut incarnationem praecederet angelica annuntiatio, triplici ratione. Primo ratione ordinis connotandi, ut scilicet ordo reparationis responderet ordini praevaricationis. Unde sicut dyabolus tentavit mulierem, ut eam pertraheret ad dubitationem et per dubitationem ad consensum et per consensum ad lapsum, sic angelus nuntiavit virgini, ut nuntiando excitaret ad fidem et per fidem ad consensum et per consensum ad concipiendum Dei filium. Secundo ratione ministerii angelici, quia enim angelus est Dei minister et servus et beata virgo electa erat, ut esset Dei mater, et congruum est ministrum dominae famulari, conveniens fuit, ut beatae virgini annuntiatio per angelum fieret. Tertio ratione lapsus angelici reparandi. Quia enim incarnatio non tantum faciebat ad reparationem humani lapsus, sed etiam ad reparationem ruinae angelicae, ideo angeli non debuerunt excludi. Unde sicut sexus mulieris non excluditur a cognitione mysterii incarnationis et resurrectionis, sic etiam nec angelicus nuntius. Imo Deus utrumque angelo mediante nuntiat mulieri, scilicet incarnationem virgini Mariae et resurrectionem Magdelenae.”[279]

These extracts bring us far into the thirteenth century. Two hundred years later, mediaeval Latin prose, if one may say so, sang its swan song in that little book which is a last, sweet, and composite echo of all mellifluous mediaeval piety. Yet perhaps this De imitatione Christi of Thomas à Kempis can scarcely be classed as prose, so full is it of assonances and rhythms fit for chanting.



[Pg 186]



I. Metrical Verse.
II. Substitution of Accent for Quantity.
III. Sequence-Hymn and Student-Song.
IV. Passage of Themes into the Vernacular.

In mediaeval Latin poetry the endeavour to preserve a classical style and the irresistible tendency to evolve new forms are more palpably distinguishable than in the prose. For there is a visible parting of the ways between the retention of the antique metres and their fruitful abandonment in verses built of accentual rhyme. Moreover, this formal divergence corresponds to a substantial difference, inasmuch as there was usually a larger survival of antique feeling and allusion in the mediaeval metrical attempts than in the rhyming poems.

As in the prose, so in the poetry, the lines of development may be followed from the Carolingian time. But a difference will be found between Italy and the North; for in Italy the course was quicker, but a less organic evolution resulted in verse less excellent and less distinctly mediaeval. By the end of the eleventh century Latin poetry in Italy, rhyming or metrical, seems to have drawn itself along as far as it was destined to progress; but in the North a richer growth culminates a century later. Indeed the most originative line of evolution of mediaeval Latin verse would seem to have been confined to the North, in the main if not exclusively.

The following pages offer no history of mediaeval Latin poetry, even as the previous chapter made no attempt to sketch the history of the prose. Their object is to point[Pg 187] out the general lines along which the verse-forms were developed, or were perhaps retarded. Three may be distinguished. The first is marked by the retention of quantity and the endeavour to preserve the ancient measures. In the second, accent and rhyme gradually take the place of metre within the old verse-forms. The third is that of the Sequence, wherein the accentual rhyming hymn springs from the chanted prose, which had superseded the chanting of the final a of the Alleluia.[280]



The lover of classical Greek and Latin poetry knows the beautiful fitness of the ancient measures for the thought and feeling which they enframed. If his eyes chance to fall on some twelfth-century Latin hymn, he will be struck by its different quality. He will quickly perceive that classic forms would have been unsuited to the Christian and romantic sentiment of the mediaeval period,[281] and will realize that some vehicle besides metrical verse would have been needed for this thoroughly declassicized feeling, even had metrical quantity remained a vital element of language, instead of passing away some centuries before. Metre was but resuscitation and convention in the time of Charlemagne. Yet it kept its sway with scholars, and could not lack votaries so long as classical poetry made part of the Ars grammatica or was read for delectation. Metrical composition did not cease throughout the Middle Ages. But it was not the true mediaeval style, and became obviously academic as accentual verse was perfected and made fit to carry spiritual emotion.[Pg 188] Nevertheless the simpler metres were cultivated successfully by the best scholars of the twelfth century.

Most of the Latin poetry of the Carolingian period was metrical, if we are to judge from the mass that remains. Reminiscence of the antique enveloped educated men, with whom the mediaeval spirit had not reached distinctness of thought and feeling. So the poetry resembled the contemporary sculpture and painting, in which the antique was still unsuperseded by any new style. Following the antique metres, using antique phrase and commonplace, often copying antique sentiment, this poetry was as dull as might be expected from men who were amused by calling each other Homer, Virgil, Horace, or David. Usually the poets were ecclesiastics, and interested in theology;[282] but many of the pieces are conventionally profane in topic, and as humanistic as the Latin poetry of Petrarch.[283] Moreover, just as Petrarch’s Latin poetry was still-born, while his Italian sonnets live, so the Carolingian poetry, when it forgets itself and falls away from metre to accentual verse, gains some degree of life. At this early period the Romance tongues were not a fit poetic vehicle, and consequently living thoughts, which with Dante and Petrarch found voice in Italian, in the ninth century began to stammer in Latin verses that were freed from the dead rules of quantity, and were already vibrant with a vital feeling for accent and rhyme.[284]

Through the tenth century metrical composition became rougher, yet sometimes drew a certain force from its rudeness. A good example is the famous Waltarius, or Waltharilied, of Ekkehart of St. Gall, composed in the year 960 as a school exercise.[285] The theme was a German story found in vernacular poetry. Ekkehart’s hexameters have a strong Teuton flavour, and doubtless some of the vigour of his paraphrase was due to the German original.

[Pg 189]The metrical poems of the eleventh century have been spoken of already, especially the more interesting ones written in Italy.[286] Most of the Latin poetry emanating from that classic land was metrical, or so intended. Frequently it tells the story of wars, or gives the Gesta of notable lives, making a kind of versified biography. One feels as if verse was employed as a refuge from the dead annalistic form. This poetry was a semi-barbarizing of the antique, without new formal or substantial elements. Italy, one may say, never became essentially and creatively mediaeval: the pressure of antique survival seems to have barred original development; Italians took little part in the great mediaeval military religious movements, the Crusades; no strikingly new architecture arose with them; their first vernacular poetry was an imitation or a borrowing from Provence and France; and by far the greater part of their Latin poetry presents an uncreative barbarizing of the antique metres.

These remarks find illustration in the principal Latin poems composed in Italy in the twelfth century. Among them one observes differences in skill, knowledge, and tendency. Some of the writers made use of leonine hexameters, others avoided the rhyme. But they were all akin in lack of excellence and originality both in composition and verse-form. There was the monk Donizo of Canossa, who wrote the Vita of the great Countess Matilda;[287] there was William of Apulia, Norman in spirit if not in blood, who wrote of the Norman conquests in Apulia and Sicily;[288] also the anonymous and barbarous De bello et excidio urbis[Pg 190] Comensis, in which is told the destruction of Como by Milan between 1118 and 1127;[289] then the metrically jingling Pisan chronicle narrating the conquest of the island of Majorca, and beginning (like the Aeneid!) with

“Arma, rates, populum vindictam coelitus octam
Scribimus, ac duros terrae pelagique labores.”[290]

We also note Peter of Ebulo, with his narrative in laudation of the emperor Henry VI., written about 1194; Henry of Septimella and his elegies upon the checkered fortunes of divers great men;[291] and lastly the more famous Godfrey of Viterbo, of probable German blood, and notary or scribe to three successive emperors, with his cantafable Pantheon or Memoria saecularum.[292] Godfrey’s poetry is rhymed after a manner of his own.

In the North, or more specifically speaking in the land of France north of the Loire, the twelfth century brought better metrical poetry than in Italy. Yet it had something of the deadness of imitation, since the vis vivida of song had passed over into rhyming verse. Still from the academic point of view, metre was the proper vehicle of poetry; as one sees, for instance, in the Ars versificatoria of Matthew of Vendome,[293] written toward the close of the twelfth century. “Versus est metrica descriptio,” says he, and then elaborates his, for the most part borrowed, definition: “Verse is metrical description proceeding concisely and line by line through the comely marriage of words to flowers of thought, and containing nothing trivial or irrelevant.” A neat conception this of poetry; and the same writer denounces leonine rhyming as unseemly, but praises the favourite metre of the Middle Ages, the elegiac; for he regards the hexameter and pentameter as together forming the perfect verse. It was in this metre that Hildebert wrote his almost classic[Pg 191] elegy over the ruins of Rome. A few lines have been quoted from it;[294] but the whole poem, which is not long, is of interest as one of the very best examples of a mediaeval Latin elegy:

“Par tibi, Roma, nihil, cum sis prope tota ruina;
Quam magni fueris integra fracta doces.
Longa tuos fastus aetas destruxit, et arces
Caesaris et superum templa palude jacent.
Ille labor, labor ille ruit quem dirus Araxes
Et stantem tremuit et cecidisse dolet;
Quem gladii regum, quem provida cura senatus,
Quem superi rerum constituere caput;
Quem magis optavit cum crimine solus habere
Caesar, quam socius et pius esse socer,
Qui, crescens studiis tribus, hostes, crimen, amicos
Vi domuit, secuit legibus, emit ope;
In quem, dum fieret, vigilavit cura priorum:
Juvit opus pietas hospitis, unda, locus.
Materiem, fabros, expensas axis uterque
Misit, se muris obtulit ipse locus.
Expendere duces thesauros, fata favorem,
Artifices studium, totus et orbis opes.
Urbs cecidit de qua si quicquam dicere dignum
Moliar, hoc potero dicere: Roma fuit.
Non tamen annorum series, non flamma, nec ensis
Ad plenum potuit hoc abolere decus.
Cura hominum potuit tantam componere Romam
Quantam non potuit solvere cura deum.
Confer opes marmorque novum superumque favorem,
Artificum vigilent in nova facta manus,
Non tamen aut fieri par stanti machina muro,
Aut restaurari sola ruina potest.
Tantum restat adhuc, tantum ruit, ut neque pars stans
Aequari possit, diruta nec refici.
Hic superum formas superi mirantur et ipsi,
Et cupiunt fictis vultibus esse pares.
Non potuit natura deos hoc ore creare
Quo miranda deum signa creavit homo.
Vultus adest his numinibus, potiusque coluntur
Artificum studio quam deitate sua.
Urbs felix, si vel dominis urbs illa careret,
Vel dominis esset turpe carere fide.”[295]

The elegiac metre was used by Abaelard in his didactic[Pg 192] poem to his son Astralabius,[296] and by John of Salisbury in his Entheticus. The hexameter also was a favourite measure, used, for instance, by Alanus of Lille in the Anticlaudianus, perhaps the noblest of mediaeval narrative or allegorical poems in Latin.[297] Another excellent composition in hexameter was the Alexandreis of Walter, born, like Alanus, apparently at Lille, but commonly called of Chatillon. As poets and as classical scholars, these two men were worthy contemporaries. Walter’s poem follows, or rather enlarges upon the Life of Alexander by Quintus Curtius.[298] He is said to have written it on the challenge of Matthew of Vendome, him of the Ars versificatoria. The Ligurinus of a certain Cistercian Gunther is still another good example of a long narrative poem in hexameters. It sets forth the career of Frederick Barbarossa, and was written shortly after the opening of the thirteenth century. Its author, like Walter and Alanus, shows himself widely read in the Classics.[299]

The sapphic was a third not infrequently attempted metre, of which the De planctu naturae of Alanus contains examples. This work was composed in the form of the De consolatione philosophiae of Boëthius, where lyrics alternate with prose. The general topic was Nature’s complaint over man’s disobedience to her laws. The author apostrophizes her in the following sapphics:

“O Dei proles, genitrixque rerum,
Vinculum mundi, stabilisque nexus,
Gemma terrenis, speculum caducis,
Lucifer orbis.
Pax, amor, virtus, regimen, potestas,
Ordo, lex, finis, via, dux, origo,
Vita, lux, splendor, species, figura
Regula mundi.
[Pg 193]Quae tuis mundum moderas habenis,
Cuncta concordi stabilita nodo
Nectis et pacis glutino maritas
Coelica terris.
Quae noys (νοῦς) plures recolens ideas
Singulas rerum species monetans,
Res togas formis, chlamidemque formae
Pollice formas.
Cui favet coelum, famulatur aer,
Quam colit Tellus, veneratur unda,
Cui velut mundi dominae tributum
Singula solvunt.
Quae diem nocti vicibus catenans
Cereum solis tribuis diei,
Lucido lunae speculo soporans
Nubila noctis.
Quae polum stellis variis inauras,
Aetheris nostri solium serenans
Siderum gemmis, varioque coelum
Milite complens.
Quae novis coeli faciem figuris
Protheans mutas aridumque vulgus
Aeris nostri regione donans,
Legeque stringis.
Cujus ad nutum juvenescit orbis,
Silva crispatur folii capillo,
Et tua florum tunicata veste,
Terra superbit.
Quae minas ponti sepelis, et auges,
Syncopans cursum pelagi furori
Ne soli tractum tumulare possit
Aequoris aestus.”[300]

Practically all of our examples have been taken from works composed in the twelfth century, and in the land comprised under the name of France. The pre-excellence of this period will likewise appear in accentual rhyming Latin poetry, which was more spontaneous and living than its loftily descended relative.



The academic vogue of metre in the early Middle Ages did not prevent the growth of more natural poetry. The[Pg 194] Irish had their Gaelic poems; people of Teutonic speech had their rough verse based on alliteration and the count of the strong syllables. The Romance tongues emerging from the common Latin were as yet poetically untried. But in the proper Latin, which had become as unquantitative and accentual as any of its vulgar forms, there was a tonic poetry that was no longer unequipped with rhyme.

Three rhythmic elements made up this natural mode of Latin versification: the succession of accented and unaccented syllables; the number of syllables in a line; and that regularly recurring sameness of sound which is called rhyme. The source of the first of these seems obvious. Accent having driven quantity from speech, came to supersede it in verse, with the accented syllable taking the place of the long syllable and the unaccented the place of the short. In the Carolingian period accentual verse followed the old metrical forms, with this exception: the metrical principle that one long is equivalent to two shorts was not adopted. Consequently the number of syllables in the successive lines of an accentual strophe would remain the same, where in the metrical antecedent they might have varied. This is also sufficient to account for the second element, the observance of regularity in the number of syllables. For this regularity seems to follow upon the acceptance of the principle that in rhythmic verse an accented syllable is not equal to two unaccented ones. The query might perhaps be made why this Latin accentual verse did not take up the principle of regularity in the number of strong syllables in a line, like Old High German poetry for example, where the number of unaccented syllables, within reasonable limits, is indifferent. A ready answer is that these Latin verses were made by people of Latin speech who had been acquainted with metrical forms of poetry, in which the number of syllables might vary, but was never indifferent; for the metrical rule was rigid that one long was equivalent to two short; and to no more and no less. Hence the short syllables were as fixed in number as the long.[301]

[Pg 195]The origin of the third element, rhyme, is in dispute. In some instances it may have passed into Greek and Latin verses from Syrian hymns.[302] But on the other hand it had long been an occasional element in Greek and Latin rhetorical prose. Probably rhyme in Latin accentual verse had no specific origin. It gradually became the sharpening, defining element of such verse. Accentual Latin lent itself so naturally to rhyme, that had not rhyme become a fixed part of this verse, there indeed would have been a fact to explain.

These, then, were the elements: accent, number of syllables, and rhyme. Most interesting is the development of verse-forms. Rhythmic Latin poetry came through the substitution of accent for quantity, and probably had many prototypes in the old jingles of Roman soldiers and provincials, which so far as known were accentual, rather than metrical. Christian accentual poetry retained those simple forms of iambic and trochaic verse which most readily submitted to the change from metre to accent, or perhaps one should say, had for centuries offered themselves as natural forms of accentual verse. Apparently the change from metre to accent within the old forms gradually took place between the sixth and the tenth centuries. During this period there was slight advance in the evolution of new verses; nor was the period creative in other respects, as we have seen. But thereafter, as the mediaeval centuries advanced from the basis of a mastered patristic and antique heritage, and began to create, there followed an admirable evolution of verse-forms: in some instances apparently issuing from the old metrico-accentual forms, and in others developing independently by virtue of the faculty of song meeting the need of singing.

This factor wrought with power—the human need and cognate faculty of song, a need and faculty stimulated in the Middle Ages by religious sentiment and emotion. In the[Pg 196] fusing of melody and words into an utterance of song—at last into a strophe—music worked potently, shaping the composition of the lines, moulding them to rhythm, insisting upon sonorousness in the words, promoting their assonance and at last compelling them to rhyme so as to meet the stress, or mark the ending, of the musical periods. Thus the exigencies of melody helped to evoke the finished verse, while the words reciprocating through their vocal capabilities and through the inspiration of their meaning, aided the evolution of the melodies. In fine, words and melody, each quickened by the other, and each moulding the other to itself, attained a perfected strophic unison; and mediaeval musician-poets achieved at last the finished verses of hymns or Sequences and student-songs.

There were two distinct lines of evolution of accentual Latin verse in the Middle Ages; and although the faculty of song was a moving energy in both, it worked in one of them more visibly than in the other. Along the one line accentual verse developed pursuant to the ancient forms, displacing quantity with accent, and evolving rhyme. The other line of evolution had no connection with the antique. It began with phrases of sonorous prose, replacing inarticulate chant. These, under the influence of music, through the creative power of song, were by degrees transformed to verse. The evolution of the Sequence-hymn will be the chief illustration. With the finished accentual Latin poetry of the twelfth century it may become impossible to tell which line of rhythmic evolution holds the antecedent of a given poem. In truth, this final and perfected verse may often have a double ancestry, descending from the rhythms which had superseded metre, and being also the child of mediaeval melody. Yet there is no difficulty in tracing by examples the two lines of evolution.

To illustrate the strain of verse which took its origin in the displacement of metre by accent and rhyme, we must look back as far as Fortunatus. He was born about the year 530 in northern Italy, but he passed his eventful life among Franks and Thuringians. A scholar and also a poet, he had a fair mastery of metre; yet some of his poems evince the spirit of the coming mediaeval time both in sentiment[Pg 197] and form. He wrote two famous hymns, one of them in the popular trochaic tetrameter, the other in the equally simple iambic dimeter. The first, a hymn to the Cross, begins with the never-to-be-forgotten

“Pange, lingua, gloriosi proelium certaminis”;

and has such lines as

“Crux fidelis, inter omnes arbor una nobilis
Dulce lignum, dulce clavo dulce pondus sustinens!”

In these the mediaeval feeling for the Cross shows itself, and while the metre is correct, it is so facile that one may read or sing the lines accentually. In the other hymn, also to the Cross, assonance and rhyme foretell the coming transformation of metre to accentual verse. Here are the first two stanzas:

“Vexilla regis prodeunt,
Fulget crucis mysterium,
Quo carne carnis conditor
Suspensus est patibulo.

Confixa clavis viscera
Tendens manus, vestigia
Redemtionis gratia
Hic immolata est hostia.”

Passing to the Carolingian epoch, some lines from a poem celebrating the victory of Charlemagne’s son Pippin over the Avars in 796, will illustrate the popular trochaic tetrameter which had become accentual, and already tended to rhyme:

“Multa mala iam fecerunt ab antico tempore,
Fana dei destruxerunt atque monasteria,
Vasa aurea sacrata, argentea, fictilia.”[303]

Next we turn to a piece by the persecuted and interesting Gottschalk, written in the latter part of the ninth century. A young lad has asked for a poem. But how can he sing, the exiled and imprisoned monk who might rather weep as the Jews by the waters of Babylon?[304] yet he will sing a hymn[Pg 198] to the Trinity, and bewail his piteous lot before the highest pitying Godhead. The verses have a lyric unity of mood, and are touching with their sad refrain. Their rhyme, if not quite pure, is abundant and catching, and their nearest metrical affinity would be a trochaic dimeter.

“1. Ut quid iubes, pusiole,
quare mandas, filiole,
carmen dulce me cantare,
cum sim longe exul valde
intra mare?
o cur iubes canere?

2. Magis mihi, miserule,
fiere libet, puerule,
plus plorare quam cantare
carmen tale, iubes quale,
amor care,
o cur iubes canere?

3. Mallem scias, pusillule,
ut velles tu, fratercule,
pio corde condolere
mihi atque prona mente
o cur iubes canere?

4. Scis, divine tyruncule,
scis, superne clientule,
hic diu me exulare,
multa die sive nocte
o cur iubes canere?

5. Scis captive plebicule
Israheli cognomine
praeceptum in Babilone
decantare extra longe
fines Iude.
o cur iubes canere?

6. Non potuerunt utique,
nec debuerunt itaque
carmen dulce coram gente
aliene nostri terre
o cur iubes canere?

7. Sed quia vis omnimode,
[Pg 199]consodalis egregie,
canam patri filioque
simul atque procedente
ex utroque.
hoc cano ultronee.

8. Benedictus es, domine,
pater, nate, paraclite,
deus trine, deus une,
deus summe, deus pie,
deus iuste.
hoc cano spontanee.

9. Exul ego diuscule
hoc in mare sum, domine:
annos nempe duos fere
nosti fore, sed iam iamque
hoc rogo humillime.

10. Interim cum pusione
psallam ore, psallam mente,
psallam voce (psallam corde),
psallam die, psallam nocte
carmen dulce
tibi, rex piissime.”[305]

Gottschalk (and for this it is hard to love him) was one of the initiators of the leonine hexameter, in which a syllable in the middle of the line rhymes with the last syllable.

“Septeno Augustas decimo praeeunte Kalendas”

is the opening hexameter in his Epistle to his friend Ratramnus.[306] To what horrid jingle such verses could attain may be seen from some leonine hexameter-pentameters of two or three hundred years later, on the Fall of Troy, beginning:

“Viribus, arte, minis, Danaum clara Troja ruinis,
Annis bis quinis fit rogus atque cinis.”[307]

[Pg 200]Hector and Troy, and the dire wiles of the Greeks never left the mediaeval imagination. A poem of the early tenth century, which bade the watchers on Modena’s walls be vigilant, draws its inspiration from that unfading memory, and for us illustrates what iambics might become when accent had replaced quantity. The lines throughout end in a final rhyming a.

“O tu, qui servas armis ista moenia,
Noli dormire, moneo, sed vigila.
Dum Hector vigil extitit in Troia,
Non eam cepit fraudulenta Graecia.”[308]

And from a scarcely later time, for it also is of the tenth century, rise those verses to Roma, that old “Roma aurea et eterna,” and forever “caput mundi,” sung by pilgrim bands as their eyes caught the first gleam of tower, church, and ruin:

“O Roma nobilis, orbis et domina,
Cunctarum urbium excellentissima,
Roseo martyrum sanguine rubea,
Albis et virginum liliis candida:
Salutem dicimus tibi per omnia,
Te benedicimus: salve per secula.”[309]

This verse, which still lifts the heart of whosoever hears or reads it, may close our examples of mediaeval verses descended from metrical forms. It will be noticed that all of them are from the early mediaeval centuries; a circumstance which may be taken as a suggestion of the fact that by far the greater part of the earlier accentual Latin poetry was composed in forms in which accent simply had displaced the antique quantity.



We turn to that other genesis of mediaeval Latin verse, arising not out of antique forms, but rather from the mediaeval need and faculty of song. In the chief instance selected for illustration, this line of evolution took its[Pg 201] inception in the exigencies and inspiration of the Alleluia chant or jubilation. During the celebration of the Mass, as the Gradual ended in its last Alleluia, the choir continued chanting the final syllable of that word in cadences of musical exultings. The melody or cadence to which this final a of the Alleluia was chanted, was called the sequentia. The words which came to be substituted for its cadenced reiteration were called the prosa. By the twelfth century the two terms seem to have been used interchangeably. Thus arose the prose Sequence, so plastic in its capability of being moulded by melody to verse. Its songful qualities lay in the sonorousness of the words and in their syllabic correspondence with the notes of the melody to which they were sung.[310]

In the year 860, Norsemen sacked the cloister of Jumièges in Normandy, and a fleeing brother carried his precious Antiphonary far away to the safe retreat of St. Gall. There a young monk named Notker, poring over its contents, perceived that words had been written in the place of the repetitions of the final a of the Alleluia. Taking the cue, he set to work to compose more fitting words to correspond with the notes to which this final a was sung. So these lines of euphonious and fitting words appear to have had their beginning in Notker’s scanning of that fugitive Antiphonary, and his devising labour. Their primary purpose was a musical one; for they were a device—mnemotechnic, if one will—to facilitate the chanting of cadences previously vocalized with difficulty through the singing of one simple vowel sound. Notker showed his work to his master, Iso, who rejoiced at what his gifted pupil had accomplished, and spurred him on by pointing out that in his composition one syllable was still sometimes repeated or drawn out through several successive notes. One syllable to each note was the principle which Notker now set himself to realize; and he succeeded.

[Pg 202]He composed some fifty Sequences. In his work, as well as in that of others after him, the device of words began to modify and develop the melodies themselves. Sometimes Notker adapted his verbal compositions to those cadences or melodies to which the Alleluia had long been sung; sometimes he composed both melody and words; or, again, he took a current melody, sacred or secular, to which the Alleluia never had been sung, and composed words for it, to be chanted as a Sequence. In these borrowed melodies, as well as in those composed by Notker, the musical periods were more developed than in the Alleluia cadences. Thus the musical growth of the Sequences was promoted by the use of sonorous words, while the improved melodies in turn drew the words on to a more perfect rhythmic ordering.

Notker died in 912. His Sequences were prose, yet with a certain parallelism in their construction; and, even with Notker in his later years, the words began to take on assonances, chiefly in the vowel sound of a. Thereafter the melodies, seizing upon the words, as it were, by the principle of their syllabic correspondence to the notation, moulded them to rhythm of movement and regularity of line; while conversely with the better ordering of the words for singing, the melodies in turn made gain and progress, and then again reacted on the words, until after two centuries there emerged the finished verses of an Adam of St. Victor.

Thus these Sequences have become verse before our eyes, and we realize that it is the very central current of the evolution of mediaeval Latin poetry that we have been following. How free and how spontaneous was this evolution of the Sequence. It was the child of the Christian Middle Ages, seeing the light in the closing years of the ninth century, but requiring a long period of growth before it reached the glory of its climacteric. It was born of musical chanting, and it grew as song, never unsung or conceived of as severable from its melody. Only as it attained its perfected strophic forms, it necessarily made use of trochaic and other rhythms which long before had changed from quantity to accent and so had passed on into the[Pg 203] verse-making habitudes of the Middle Ages.[311] If there be any Latin composition in virtue of origin and growth absolutely un-antique, it is the mediaeval Sequence, which in its final forms is so glorious a representative of the mediaeval Hymn. And we shall also see that much popular Latin poetry, “Carmina Burana” and student-songs, were composed in verses and often sung to tunes taken—or parodied—from the Sequence-hymns of the Liturgy.

There were many ways of chanting Sequences. The musical phrases of the melodies usually were repeated once, except at the beginning and the close; and the Sequence would be rendered by a double choir singing antiphonally. Ordinarily the words responded to the repetition of the musical phrases with a parallelism of their own. The lines (after the first) varied in length by pairs, the second and third lines having the same number of syllables, the fourth and fifth likewise equal to each other, but differing in length from the second and third; and so on through the Sequence, until the last line, which commonly stood alone and differed in length from the preceding pairs. The Sequence called “Nostra tuba” is a good example. Probably it was composed by Notker, and in his later years; for it is filled with assonances, and exhibits a regular parallelism of structure.

“Nostra tuba
Regatur fortissime Dei dextra et preces audiat
Aura placatissima et serena; ita enim nostra
Laus erit accepta, voce si quod canimus, canat pariter et pura conscientia.
Et, ut haec possimus, omnes divina nobis semper flagitemus adesse auxilia.
[Pg 204] ············
O bone Rex, pie, juste, misericors, qui es via et janua,
Portas regni, quaesumus, nobis reseres, dimittasque facinora
Ut laudemus nomen nunc tuum atque per cuncta saecula.”[312]

Here, after the opening, the first pair has seventeen syllables, and the next pair twenty-six. The last pair quoted has twenty; and the final line of seventeen syllables has no fellow. A further rhythmical advance seems reached by the following Sequence from the abbey of St. Martial at Limoges. It may have been written in the eleventh century. It is given here with the first and second line of the couplets opposite to each other, as strophe and antistrophe; and the lines themselves are divided to show the assonances (or rhymes) which appear to have corresponded with pauses in the melody:

“(1) Canat omnis turba
(2a) Fonte renata
Spiritusque gratia
  (2b) Laude jucunda
et mente perspicua
(3a) Jam restituta
pars est decima
fuerat quae culpa
  (3b) Sicque jactura
coelestis illa
completur in laude
(4a) Ecce praeclara
dies dominica
  (4b) Enitet ampla
per orbis spatia,
(5a) Exsultat in qua
plebs omnis redempta,
  (5b) Quia destructa
mors est perpetua.”[313]

A Sequence of the eleventh century will afford a final illustration of approach to a regular strophic structure, and of the use of the final one-syllable rhyme in a, throughout the Sequence:

[Pg 205]

Turma, proclama leta;
Laude canora,
Facta prome divina,
Jam instituta
Superna disciplina,

Christi sacra
Per magnalia
Es quia de morte liberata
Ut destructa
Inferni claustra
Januaque celi patefacta!

Jam nunc omnia
Virtute gubernat eterna.
In quibus sua
Semper equa
Dat auctoritate paterna.”

As the eleventh century closed and the great twelfth century dawned, the forces of mediaeval growth quickened to a mightier vitality, and distinctively mediaeval creations appeared. Our eyes, of course, are fixed upon the northern lands, where the Sequence grew from prose to verse, and where derivative or analogous forms of popular poetry developed also. Up to this time, throughout mediaeval life and thought, progress had been somewhat uncrowned with palpable achievement. Yet the first brilliant creations of a master-workman are the fruit of his apprentice years, during which his progress has been as real as when his works begin to make it visible. So it was no sudden birth[Pg 206] of power, but rather faculties ripening through apprentice centuries, which illumine the period opening about the year 1100. This period would carry no human teaching if its accomplishment in institutions, in philosophy, in art and poetry, had been a heaven-blown accident, and not the fruit of antecedent discipline.

The poetic advance represented by the Sequences of Adam of St. Victor may rouse our admiration for the poet’s genius, but should not blind our eyes to the continuity of development leading to it. Adam is the final artist and his work a veritable creation; yet his antecedents made part of his creative faculty. The elements of his verses and the general idea and form of the sequence were given him;—all honour to the man’s holy genius which made these into poems. The elements referred to consisted in accentual measures and in the two-syllabled Latin rhyme which appears to have been finally achieved by the close of the eleventh century.[315] In using them Adam was no borrower, but an artist who perforce worked in the medium of his art. Trochaic and iambic rhythms then constituted the chief measures for accentual verse, as they had for centuries, and do still. For, although accentual rhythms admit dactyls and anapaests, these have not proved generally serviceable. Likewise the inevitable progress of Latin verse had developed assonances into rhymes; and indeed into rhymes of two syllables, for Latin words lend themselves as readily to rhymes of two syllables as English words to rhymes of one.

There existed also the idea and form of the Sequence, consisting of pairs of lines which had reached assonance and some degree of rhythm, and varied in length, pair by pair, following the music of the melodies to which they were sung. For the Sequence-melody did not keep to the same recurring tune throughout, but varied from couplet to couplet. In consequence, a Sequence by Adam of St. Victor may contain a variety of verse-forms. Moreover, a number of the Sequences of which he may have been the author show survivals of the old rhythmical irregularities, and of assonance as yet unsuperseded by pure rhyme.

[Pg 207]Before giving examples of Adam’s poems, a tribute should be paid to his great forerunner in the art of Latin verse. Adam doubtless was familiar with the hymns[316] of the most brilliant intellectual luminary of the departing generation, one Peter Abaelard, whom he may have seen in the flesh. Those once famous love-songs, written for Heloïse, perished (so far as we know) with the love they sang. Another fate—and perhaps Abaelard wished it so—was in store for the many hymns which he wrote for his sisters in Christ, the abbess and her nuns. They still exist,[317] and display a richness of verse-forms scarcely equalled even by the Sequences of Adam. In the development of Latin verse, Abaelard is Adam’s immediate predecessor; his verses being, as it were, just one stage inferior to Adam’s in sonorousness of line, in certainty of rhythm, and in purity of rhyme.

The “prose” Sequences were not the direct antecedents of Abaelard’s hymns. Yet both sprang from the freely devising spirit of melody and song; and therefore those hymns are of this free-born lineage more truly than they are descendants of antique forms. To be sure, every possible accentual rhythm, built as it must be of trochees, iambics, anapaests, or dactyls, has unavoidably some antique quantitative antecedent; because the antique measures exhausted the possibilities of syllabic combination. Yet antecedence is not source, and most of Abaelard’s verses by their form and spirit proclaim their genesis in the creative exigencies of song as loudly as they disavow any antique parentage.

For example, there may be some far echo of metrical asclepiads in the following accentual and rhyme-harnessed twelve-syllable verse:

“Advenit veritas, umbra praeteriit,
[Pg 208]Post noctem claritas diei subiit,
Ad ortum rutilant superni luminis
Legis mysteria plena caliginis.”

But the echo if audible is faint, and surely no antique whisper is heard in

“Est in Rama
Vox audita
Rachel flentis
Super natos

Nor in

“Golias prostratus est,
Resurrexit Dominus,
Ense jugulatus est
Hostis proprio;
Cum suis submersus est
Ille Pharao.”

The variety of Abaelard’s verse seems endless. One or two further examples may or may not suggest any antecedents in those older forms of accentual verse which followed the former metres:

“Ornarunt terram germina,
Nunc caelum luminaria.
Sole, luna, stellis depingitur,
Quorum multus usus cognoscitur.”

In this verse the first two lines are accentual iambic dimeters; while the last two begin each with two trochees, and close apparently with two dactyls. The last form of line is kept throughout in the following:

“Gaude virgo virginum gloria,
Matrum decus et mater, jubila,
Quae commune sanctorum omnium
Meruisti conferre gaudium.”

Next come some simple five-syllable lines, with a catching rhyme:

“Lignum amaras
Indulcat aquas
Eis immissum.
Omnes agones
Sunt sanctis dulces
Per crucifixum.”

[Pg 209]In the following lines of ten syllables a dactyl appears to follow a trochee twice in each line:

“Tuba Domini, Paule, maxima,
De caelestibus dans tonitrua,
Hostes dissipans, cives aggrega.

Doctor gentium es praecipuus,
Vas in poculum factus omnibus,
Sapientiae plenum haustibus.”

These examples of Abaelard’s rhythms may close with the following curiously complicated verse:

“Tu quae carnem edomet
Tu quae carnem decoret
Tu velle quod bonum est his ingeris
Ac ipsum perficere tu tribuis.
Sunt his tua
Per quos mira peragis,
Et humana
Moves corda
Signis et prodigiis.”

In general, one observes in these verses that Abaelard does not use a pure two-syllable rhyme. The rhyme is always pure in the last syllable, and in the penult may either exist as a pure rhyme or simply as an assonance, or not at all.[318]

Probably Abaelard wrote his hymns in 1130, perhaps the very year when Adam as a youth entered the convent of St. Victor, lying across the Seine from Paris. The latter appears to have lived until 1192. Many Sequences have been improperly ascribed to him, and among the doubtful ones are a number having affinities with the older types. These may be anterior to Adam; for the greater part of his unquestionable Sequences are perfected throughout in their versification. Yet, on the other hand, one would expect some progression in works composed in the course of a long[Pg 210] life devoted to such composition—a life covering a period when progressive changes were taking place in the world of thought beyond St. Victor’s walls. We take three examples of these Sequences. The first contains occasional assonance in place of rhyme, and uses many rhymes of one syllable. It appears to be an older composition improperly ascribed to Adam. The second is unquestionably his, in his most perfect form; the third may or may not be Adam’s; but is given for its own sake as a lovely lyric.[319]

The first example, probably written not much later than the year 1100, was designed for the Mass at the dedication of a church. The variety in the succession of couplets and strophes indicates a corresponding variation in the melody.

“Clara chorus dulce pangat voce nunc alleluia,
Ad aeterni regis laudem qui gubernat omnia!

Cui nos universalis sociat Ecclesia,
Scala nitens et pertingens ad poli fastigia;

Ad honorem cujus laeta psallamus melodia,
Persolventes hodiernas laudes illi debitas.

O felix aula, quam vicissim
Confrequentant agmina coelica,
Divinis verbis alternatim
Jungentia mellea cantica!

Domus haec, de qua vetusta sonuit historia
Et moderna protestatur Christum fari pagina:
‘Quoniam elegi eam thronum sine macula,
‘Requies haec erit mea per aeterna saecula.

Turris supra montem sita,
Indissolubili bitumine fundata
Vallo perenni munita,
Atque aurea columna
[Pg 211]Miris ac variis lapidibus distincta,
Stylo subtili polita!

Ave, mater praeelecta,
Ad quam Christus fatur ita
Prophetae facundia:
‘Sponsa mea speciosa,
‘Inter filias formosa,
‘Supra solem splendida!

‘Caput tuum ut Carmelus
‘Et ipsius comae tinctae regis uti purpura;
‘Oculi ut columbarum,
‘Genae tuae punicorum ceu malorum fragmina!

‘Mel et lac sub lingua tua, favus stillans labia;
‘Collum tuum ut columna, turris et eburnea!’

Ergo nobis Sponsae tuae
Famulantibus, o Christe, pietate solita
Clemens adesse dignare
Et in tuo salutari nos ubique visita.

Ipsaque mediatrice, summe rex, perpetue,
Voce pura
Flagitamus, da gaudere Paradisi gloria.

The second example is Adam’s famous Sequence for St. Stephen’s Day, which falls on the day after Christmas. It is throughout sustained and perfect in versification, and in substance a splendid hymn of praise.

“Heri mundus exultavit
Et exultans celebravit
Christi natalitia;
Heri chorus angelorum
Prosecutus est coelorum
Regem cum laetitia.
[Pg 212]
Protomartyr et levita,
Clarus fide, clarus vita,
Clarus et miraculis,
Sub hac luce triumphavit
Et triumphans insultavit
Stephanus incredulis.

Fremunt ergo tanquam ferae
Quia victi defecere
Lucis adversarii:
Falsos testes statuunt,
Et linguas exacuunt
Viperarum filii.

Agonista, nulli cede,
Certa certus de mercede,
Persevera, Stephane;
Insta falsis testibus,
Confuta sermonibus
Synagogam Satanae.

Testis tuus est in coelis,
Testis verax et fidelis,
Testis innocentiae.
Nomen habes coronati:
Te tormenta decet pati
Pro corona gloriae.

Pro corona non marcenti
Perfer brevis vim tormenti;
Te manet victoria.
Tibi fiet mors natalis,
Tibi poena terminalis
Dat vitae primordia.

Plenus Sancto Spiritu,
Penetrat intuitu
Stephanus coelestia.
Videns Dei gloriam,
Crescit ad victoriam,
Suspirat ad praemia.
[Pg 213]
En a dextris Dei stantem,
Jesum pro te dimicantem,
Stephane, considera:
Tibi coelos reserari,
Tibi Christum revelari,
Clama voce libera.

Se commendat Salvatori,
Pro quo dulce ducit mori
Sub ipsis lapidibus.
Saulus servat omnium
Vestes lapidantium,
Lapidans in omnibus.

Ne peccatum statuatur
His a quibus lapidatur,
Genu ponit, et precatur,
Condolens insaniae.
In Christo sic obdormivit,
Qui Christo sic obedivit,
Et cum Christo semper vivit,
Martyrum primitiae.”

The last example, in honour of St. Nicholas’s Day, is a lovely poem by whomsoever written. Its verses are extremely diversified. It begins with somewhat formal chanting of the saint’s virtues, in dignified couplets. Suddenly it changes to a joyful lyric, and sings of a certain sweet sea-miracle wrought by Nicholas. Then it spiritualizes the conception of his saintly aid to meet the call of the sin-tossed soul. It closes in stately manner in harmony with its liturgical function.

“Congaudentes exultemus vocali concordia
Ad beati Nicolai festiva solemnia!

Qui in cunis adhuc jacens servando jejunia
A papilla coepit summa promereri gaudia.

Adolescens amplexatur litterarum studia,
Alienus et immunis ab omni lascivia.
[Pg 214]
Felix confessor, cujus fuit dignitatis vox de coelo nuntia!
Per quam provectus, praesulatus sublimatur ad summa fastigia.

Erat in ejus animo pietas eximia,
Et oppressis impendebat multa beneficia.

Auro per eum virginum tollitur infamia,
Atque patris earumdem levatur inopia.

Quidam nautae navigantes,
Et contra fluctuum saevitiam luctantes,
Navi pene dissoluta,
Jam de vita desperantes,
In tanto positi periculo, clamantes
Voce dicunt omnes una:

‘O beate Nicolae,
Nos ad maris portum trahe
De mortis angustia.
Trahe nos ad portum maris,
Tu qui tot auxiliaris,
Pietatis gratia.’

Dum clamarent, nec incassum,
‘Ecce’ quidam dicens, ‘assum
Ad vestra praesidia.’
Statim aura datur grata
Et tempestas fit sedata:
Quieverunt maria.

Nos, qui sumus in hoc mundo,
Vitiorum in profundo
Jam passi naufragia,
Gloriose Nicolae
Ad salutis portum trahe,
Ubi pax et gloria.

Illam nobis unctionem
Impetres ad Dominum,
Prece pia,
[Pg 215]Qua sanavit laesionem
Multorum peccaminum
In Maria.

Hujus festum celebrantes gaudeant per saecula,
Et coronet eos Christus post vitae curricula!”[322]

The foregoing examples of religious poetry may be supplemented by illustrations of the parallel evolution of more profane if not more popular verse. Any priority in time, as between the two, should lie with the former; though it may be the truer view to find a general synchronism in the secular and religious phases of lyric growth. But priority of originality and creativeness certainly belongs to that line of lyric evolution which sprang from religious sentiments and emotions. For the vagrant clerkly poet of the Court, the roadside, and the inn, used the forms of verse fashioned by the religious muse in the cloister and the school. Thus the development of secular Latin verse presents a derivative parallel to the essentially primary evolution of the Sequence or the hymn.

It was in Germany that the composition of Sequences was most zealously cultivated during the century following Notker’s death; and it was in Germany that the Sequence, in its earlier forms, exerted most palpable influence upon popular songs.[323] In these so-called Modi (Modus == song), as in the Sequence, rhythmical compositions may be seen progressing in the direction of regular rhythm, rhyme, and strophic form. As in the Sequences, the tune moulded the words, which in turn influenced the melody. The following is from the Modus Ottinc, a popular song composed about[Pg 216] the year 1000 in honour of a victory of Otto III. over the Hungarians:

“His incensi bella fremunt, arma poscunt, hostes vocant, signa secuntur, tubis canunt.
Clamor passim oritur et milibus centum Theutones inmiscentur.

Pauci cedunt, plures cadunt, Francus instat, Parthus fugit; vulgus exangue undis obstat;
Licus rubens sanguine Danubio cladem Parthicam ostendebat.”

Another example is the Modus florum of approximately the same period, a song about a king who promised his daughter to whoever could tell such a lie as to force the king to call him a liar. It opens as follows:

“Mendosam quam cantilenam ago,
puerulis commendatam dabo,
quo modulos per mendaces risum
auditoribus ingentem ferant.

Liberalis et decora
cuidam regi erat nata
quam sub lege hujusmodi
procis opponit quaerendam.”

Here the rhyme still is rude and the rhythm irregular. The following dirge, written thirty or forty years later on the death of the German emperor, Henry II., shows improvement:

“Lamentemur nostra, Socii, peccata,
amentemur et ploremus! Quare tacemus?
Pro iniquitate corruimus late;
scimus coeli hinc offensum regem immensum.
Heinrico requiem, rex Christe, dona perennem.”[325]

We may pass on into the twelfth century, still following the traces of that development of popular verse which paralleled the evolution of the Sequence. We first note[Pg 217] some catchy rhymes of a German student setting out for Paris in quest of learning and intellectual novelty:

“Hospita in Gallia nunc me vocant studia.
Vadam ergo; flens a tergo socios relinquo.
Plangite discipuli, lugubris discidii tempore propinquo.
Vale, dulcis patria, suavis Suevorum Suevia!
Salve dilecta Francia, philosophorum curia!
Suscipe discipulum in te peregrinum,
Quem post dierum circulum remittes Socratinum.”[326]

This Suabian, singing his uncouth Latin rhymes, and footing his way to Paris, suggests the common, delocalized influences which were developing a mass of student-songs, “Carmina Burana,” or “Goliardic” poetry. The authors belonged to that large and broad class of clerks made up of any and all persons who knew Latin. The songs circulated through western Europe, and their home was everywhere, if not their origin. Some of them betray, as more of them do not, the author’s land and race. Frequently of diabolic cleverness, gibing, amorous, convivial, they show the virtuosity in rhyme of their many makers. Like the hymns and later Sequences, they employed of necessity those accentual measures which once had their quantitative prototypes in antique metres. But, again like the hymns and Sequences, they neither imitate nor borrow, but make use of trochaic, iambic, or other rhythms as the natural and unavoidable material of verse. Their strophes are new strophes, and not imitations of anything in quantitative poetry. So these songs were free-born, and their development was as independent of antique influence as the melodies which ever moulded them to more perfect music. Many and divers were their measures. But as that great strophe of Adam’s Heri mundus exultavit (the strophe of the Stabat Mater) was of mightiest dominance among the hymns, so for these student-songs there was also one measure that was chief. This was the thirteen-syllable trochaic line, with its lilting change of stress after the seventh syllable, and its pure two-syllable rhyme. It is the line of the Confessio poetae, or Confessio Goliae, where nests that one mediaeval Latin verse which everybody still knows by heart:

[Pg 218]“Meum est propositum in taberna mori,
Vinum sit appositum morientis ori,
Tunc cantabunt laetius angelorum chori,
‘Sit Deus propitius huic potatori.’”

It is also the line of the quite charming Phyllis and Flora of the Carmina Burana:

“Erant ambae virgines et ambae reginae,
Phyllis coma libera, Flora compto crine:
Non sunt formae virginum, sed formae divinae,
Et respondent facie luci matutinae.”[327]

Another common measure is the twelve-syllable dactylic line of the famous Apocalypsis Goliae Episcopi:

“Ipsam Pythagorae formam aspicio,
Inscriptam artium schemate vario.
An extra corpus sit haec revelatio,
Utrum in corpore, Deus scit, nescio.
In fronte micuit ars astrologica;
Dentium seriem regit grammatica;
In lingua pulcrius vernat rhetorica,
Concussis aestuat in labiis logica.”

An example of the not infrequent eight-syllable line is afforded by that tremendous satire against papal Rome, beginning:

“Propter Sion non tacebo,
Sed ruinam Romae flebo,
Quousque justitia
Rursus nobis oriatur,
Et ut lampas accendatur
Justus in ecclesia.”

Here the last line of the verse has but seven syllables, as is the case in the following verse of four lines:

“Vinum bonum et suave,
Bonis bonum, pravis prave,
Cunctis dulcis sapor, ave,
Mundana laetitia!”

But the eight-syllable lines may be kept throughout, as in the following lament over life’s lovely, pernicious charm, so touching in its expression of the mortal heartbreak of mediaeval monasticism:

[Pg 219]“Heu! Heu! mundi vita,
Quare me delectas ita?
Cum non possis mecum stare,
Quid me cogis te amare?
Vita mundi, res morbosa,
Magis fragilis quam rosa,
Cum sis tota lacrymosa,
Cur es mihi graciosa?”[328]



Our consideration of the different styles of mediaeval Latin prose and the many novel forms of mediaeval Latin verse has shown how radical was the departure of the one and the other from Cicero and Virgil. Through such changes Latin continued to prove itself a living language. Yet its vitality was doomed to wane before the rivalry of the vernacular tongues. The vivida vis, the capability of growth, had well-nigh passed from Latin when Petrarch was born. In endeavouring to maintain its supremacy as a literary vehicle he was to hold a losing brief, nor did he strengthen his cause by attempting to resuscitate a classic style of prose and metre. The victory of the vernacular was announced in Dante’s De vulgari eloquentia and demonstrated beyond dispute in his Divina Commedia.

A long and for the most part peaceful and unconscious conflict had led up to the victory of what might have been deemed the baser side. For Latin was the sole mediaeval literature that was born in the purple, with its stately lineage of the patristic and the classical back of it. Latin was the language of the Roman world and the vehicle of Latin Christianity. It was the language of the Church and its clergy, and the language of all educated people. Naturally[Pg 220] the entire contents of existing and progressive Christian and antique culture were contained in the mediaeval Latin literature, the literature of religion and of law and government, of education and of all serious knowledge. It was to be the primary literature of mediaeval thought; from which passed over the chief part of whatever thought and knowledge the vernacular literatures were to receive. For scholars who follow, as we have tried to, the intellectual and the deeper emotional life of the Middle Ages, the Latin literature yields the incomparably greater part of the material of our study. It has been our home country, from which we have made casual excursions into the vernacular literatures.

These existed, however, from the earliest mediaeval periods, beginning, if one may say so, in oral rather than written documents. We read that Charlemagne caused a book to be made of Germanic poems, which till then presumably had been carried in men’s memories. The Hildebrandslied is supposed to have been one of them.[329] In the Norse lands, the Eddas and the matter of the Sagas were repeated from generation to generation, long before they were written down. The habit, if not the art, of writing came with Christianity and the Latin education accompanying it. Gradually a written literature in the Teutonic languages was accumulated. Of this there was the heathen side, well represented in Anglo-Saxon and the Norse; while in Old High German the Hildebrandslied remains, heathen and savage. Thereafter, a popular and even national or rather racial poetry continued, developed, and grew large, notwithstanding the spread of Latin Christianity through Teutonic lands. Of this the Niebelungenlied and the Gudrun are great examples. But individual still famous poets, who felt and thought as Germans, were also composing sturdily in their vernacular—a lack of education possibly causing them to dictate (dictieren, dichten) rather than to write. Of these the greatest were Wolfram von Eschenbach and Walther von der Vogelweide. With them and after them, or following upon the Niebelungenlied, came a mass of secular poetry,[Pg 221] some of which was popular and national, reflecting Germanic story, while some of it was courtly, transcribing the courtly poetry which by the twelfth century flourished in Old French.

Thus bourgeoned the secular branches of German literature. On the other hand, from the time of Christianity’s introduction, the Germans felt the need to have the new religion presented to them in their own tongues. The labour of translation begins with Ulfilas, and is continued with conscientious renderings of Scripture and Latin educational treatises, and also with such epic paraphrase as the Heliand and the more elegiac poems of the Anglo-Saxon Cynewulf.[330] Also, at least in Germany, there comes into existence a full religious literature, not stoled or mitred, but popular, non-academic, and non-liturgical; of which quantities remain in the Middle High German of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.[331]

Obviously the Romance vernacular literatures had a different commencement. The languages were Latin, simply Latin, in their inception, and never ceased to be legitimate continuations and developments of the popular or Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire. But as the speech of children, women, and unlettered people, they were not thought of as literary media. All who could write understood perfectly the better Latin from which these popular dialects were slowly differentiating themselves. And as they progressed to languages, still their life and progress lay among peoples whose ancestral tongue was the proper Latin, which all educated men and women still understood and used in the serious business of life.

But sooner or later men will talk and sing and think and compose in the speech which is closest to them. The Romance tongues became literary through this human need of natural expression. There always had been songs in the old Vulgar Latin; and such did not cease as it gradually became what one may call Romance. Moreover, the clergy might be impelled to use the popular speech in preaching to[Pg 222] the laity, or some unlearned person might compose religious verses. Almost the oldest monument of Old French is the hymn in honour of Ste. Eulalie. Then as civilization advanced from the tenth to the twelfth century, in southern and northern France for example, and the langue d’oc and the langue d’oil became independent and developed languages, unlearned men, or men with unlearned audiences, would unavoidably set themselves to composing poetry in these tongues. In the North the chansons de geste came into existence; in the South the knightly Troubadours made love-lyrics. Somehow, these poems were written down, and there was literature for men’s eyes as well as for men’s ears.

In the twelfth century and the thirteenth, the audiences for Romance poetry, especially through the regions of southern and northern France, increased and became diversified. They were made up of all classes, save the brute serf, and of both sexes. The chansons de geste met the taste of the feudal barons; the Arthurian Cycle charmed the feudal dames; the coarse fabliaux pleased the bourgeoisie; and chansons of all kinds might be found diverting by various people. If the religious side was less strongly represented, it was because the closeness of the language to the clerkly and liturgical Latin left no such need of translations as was felt from the beginning among peoples of Germanic speech. Still the Gospels, especially the apocryphal, were put into Old French, and miracles de Notre Dame without number; also legends of the saints, and devout tales of many kinds.

The accentual verses of the Romance tongues had their source in the popular accentual Latin verse of the later Roman period. Their development was not unrelated to the Latin accentual verse which was superseding metrical composition in the centuries extending, one may say, from the fifth to the eleventh. Divergences between the Latin and Romance verse would be caused by the linguistic evolution through which the Romance tongues were becoming independent languages. Nor was this divergence uninfluenced by the fact that Romance poetry was popular and usually concerned with topics of this life, while Latin poetry in the most striking lines of its evolution was liturgical; and even when secular in topic tended to become learned, since it was[Pg 223] the product of the academically educated classes. Much of the vernacular (Romance as well as Germanic) poetry in the Middle Ages was composed by unlearned men who had at most but a speaking acquaintance with Latin, and knew little of the antique literature. This was true, generally, of the Troubadours of Provence, of the authors of the Old French chansons de geste, and of such a courtly poet as Chrétien de Troies; true likewise of the great German Minnesingers, epic poets rather, Gottfried von Strassburg, Wolfram von Eschenbach, and Walther von der Vogelweide.

On the other hand, vernacular poetry might be written by highly learned men, of whom the towering though late example would be Dante Alighieri. An instance somewhat nearer to us at present is Jean Clopinel or de Meun, the author of the second part of the Roman de la rose. His extraordinary Voltairean production embodies all the learning of the time; and its scholar-author was a man of genius, who incorporated his learning and the fruit thereof very organically in his poem.

But here, at the close of our consideration of the mediaeval appreciation of the Classics, and the relations between the Classics and mediaeval Latin literature, we are not occupied with the very loose and general question of the amount of classical learning to be found in the vernacular literatures of western Europe. That was a casual matter depending on the education and learning, or lack thereof, of the author of the given piece. But it may be profitable to glance at the passing over of antique themes of story into mediaeval vernacular literature, and the manner of their refashioning. This is a huge subject, but we shall not go into it deeply, or pursue the various antique themes through their endless propagations.

Antique stories aroused and pointed the mediaeval imagination; they made part of the never-absent antique influence which helped to bring the mediaeval peoples on and evoke in them an articulate power to fashion and create all kinds of mediaeval things. But with antique story as with other antique material, the Middle Ages had to turn it over and absorb it, and also had to become themselves with power, before they could refashion the antique theme or[Pg 224] create along its lines. All this had taken place by the middle of the twelfth century. As to choice of matter, twelfth-century refashioners would either select an antique theme suited to their handling, or extract what appealed to them from some classic story. In the one case as in the other they might recast, enlarge, or invent as their faculties permitted.

Mediaeval taste took naturally to the degenerate productions of the late antique or transition centuries. The Greek novels seem to have been unknown, except the Apollonius of Tyre.[332] But the congenially preposterous story of Alexander by the Pseudo-Callisthenes was available in a sixth-century Latin version, and was made much of. Equally popular was the debasement and intentional distortion of the Tale of Troy in the work of “Dares” and “Dictys”; other tales were aptly presented in Ovid’s Metamorphoses; and the stories of Hero and Leander, of Pyramus and Thisbe, of Narcissus, Orpheus, Cadmus, Daedalus, were widely known and often told in the Middle Ages.

The mediaeval writers made as if they believed these tales. At least they accepted them as they would have their own audiences accept their recasting, with little reflection as to whether truth or fable. But was the work of the refashioners conscious fiction? Scarcely, when it simply recast the old story in mediaevalizing paraphrase; but when the poet went on and wove out of ten lines a thousand, he must have known himself devising.

The mediaeval treatment of classic themes of history and epic poetry shows how the Middle Ages refashioned and reinspired after their own image whatever they took from the antique. If it was partly their fault, it was also their unavoidable misfortune that they received these great themes in the literary distortions of the transition centuries. Doubtless they preferred encyclopaedic dulness to epic unity;[Pg 225] they loved fantasy rather than history, and of course delighted in the preposterous, as they found it in the Latin version of the Life and Deeds of Alexander. As for the Tale of Troy, the real Homer never reached them: and perhaps mediaeval peoples who were pleased, like Virgil’s Romans, to draw their origins from Trojan heroes, would have rejected Homer’s story just as “Dares” and “Dictys,” whoever they were, did.[333] The true mediaeval rifacimenti, to wit, the retellings of these tales in the vernacular, mirror the mediaeval mind, the mediaeval character, and the whole panorama of mediaeval life and fantasy.

The chief epic themes drawn from the antique were the Tales of Troy and Thebes and the story of Aeneas. In verse and prose they were retold in the vernacular literatures and also in mediaeval Latin.[334] We shall, however, limit our view to the primary Old French versions, which formed the basis of compositions in German, Italian, English, as well as French. They were composed between 1150 and 1170 by Norman-French trouvères. The names of the authors of the Roman de Thebes and the Eneas are unknown; the Roman de Troie was written by Benoit de St. More.

These poems present a universal substitution of mediaeval manners and sentiment. For instance, one observes that the epic participation of the pagan gods is minimized, and in the Roman de Troie even discarded; necromancy, on the[Pg 226] other hand, abounds. A more interesting change is the transformation of the love episode. That had become an epic adjunct in Alexandrian Greek literature as early as the third century before Christ. It existed in the antique sources of all these mediaeval poems. Nevertheless the romantic narratives of courtly love in the latter are mediaeval creations.

The Eneas relates the love of Lavinia for the hero, most correctly reciprocated by him. The account of it fills fourteen hundred lines, and has no precedent in Virgil’s poem, which in other respects is followed closely. Lavinia sees Aeneas from her tower, and at once understands a previous discourse of her mother on the subject of love. She utters love’s plaints, and then faints because Aeneas does not seem to notice her. After which she passes a sleepless night. The next morning she tells her mother, who is furious, since she favours Turnus as a suitor. The girl falls senseless, but coming to herself when alone, she recalls love’s stratagems, and attaches a letter to an arrow which is shot so as to fall at Aeneas’s feet. Aeneas reads the letter, and turns and salutes the fair one furtively, that his followers may not see. Then he enters his tent and falls so sick with love that he takes to his bed. The next day Lavinia watches for him, and thinks him false, till at last, pale and feeble, he appears, and her heart acquits him; amorous glances now fly back and forth between them.[335]

To have this jaded jilt grow sick with love is a little too much for us, and Aeneas is absurd; but the universal human touches us quite otherwise in the sweet changing heart of Briseida in the Roman de Troie. There is no ground for denying to Benoit of St. More his meed of fame for creating this charming person and starting her upon her career. Following “Dares,” Benoit calls her Briseida; but she becomes the Griseis of Boccaccio’s Filostrato; and what good man does not sigh and love her under the name of Cressid in Chaucer’s poem, though he may deplore her somewhat brazen heartlessness in Shakespeare’s play.

It is not given to all men, or women, in presence or absence, in life and death, to love once and forever. One has[Pg 227] the stable heart, another’s fancy is quickly turned. Sometimes, of course, our moral sledge-hammers should be brought to bear; but a little hopeless smile may be juster, as we sigh “she (it is more often “he”) couldn’t help it.” Such was Briseida, the sweet, loving, helpless—coquette? jilt? flirt? these words are all too belittling to tell her truly. Benoit knew better. He took her dry-as-dust characterization from “Dares”; he gave it life, and then let his fair creature do just the things she might, without ceasing to be she.

The abject “Dares” (Benoit may have had a better story under that name) in his catalogue of characters has this: “Briseidam formosam, alta statura, candidam, capillo flavo et molli, superciliis junctis, oculis venustis, corpore aequali, blandam, affabilem, verecundam, animo simplici [O ye gods!], piam.” He makes no other mention of this tall, graceful girl, with her lovely eyes and eyebrows meeting above, her modest, pleasant mien, and simple soul; for simple she was, and therein lies the direst bit of truth about her. For it is simple and uncomplex to take the colour of new scenes and faces, and of new proffered love when the old is far away.

Now see what Benoit does with this dust: Briseida is the daughter of Calchas, a Trojan seer who had passed over to the Greeks, warned by Apollo. He is in the Grecian host, but his daughter is in Troy. Benoit says, she was engaging, lovelier and fairer than the fleur de lis—though her eyebrows grew rather too close together. “Beaux yeux” she had, “de grande manière,” and charming was her talk, and faultless her breeding as her dress. Much was she loved and much she loved, although her heart changed; and she was very loving, simple, and kind:

“Molt fu amée et molt ameit,
Mes sis corages li changeit;
Et si esteit molt amorose,
Simple et almosniere et pitose.”[336]

Calchas wants his daughter, and Priam decides to send[Pg 228] her. There is truce between the armies. Troilus, Troy’s glorious young knight, matchless in beauty, in arms second only to his brother Hector, is beside himself. He loves Briseida, and she him. What tears and protestations, and what vows! But the girl must go to her father.

On the morrow the young dame has other cares—to see to the packing of her lovely dresses and put on the loveliest of them; over all she threw a mantle inwoven with the flowers of Paradise. The Trojan ladies add their tears to the damsel’s; for she is ready to die of grief at leaving her lover. Benoit assures us that she will not weep long; it is not woman’s way, he continues somewhat mediaevally.

The brilliant cortège is met by one still more distinguished from the Grecian host. Troilus must turn back, and the lady passes to the escort of Diomede. She was young; he was impetuous; he looks once, and then greets her with a torrential declaration of love. He never loved before!! He is hers, body and soul and high emprize. Briseida speaks him fair:

“At this time it would be wrong for me to say a word of love. You would deem me light indeed! Why, I hardly know you! and girls so often are deceived by men. What you have said cannot move a heart grieving, like mine, to lose my—friend, and others whom I may never see again. For one of my station to speak to you of love! I have no mind for that. Yet you seem of such rank and prowess that no girl under heaven ought to refuse you. It is only that I have no heart to give. If I had, surely I could hold none dearer than you. But I have neither the thought nor power, and may God never give it to me!”[337]

One need not tell the flash of joy that then was Diomede’s, nor the many troubles that were to be his before at last Briseida finds that her heart has indeed turned to this new lover, always at hand, courting danger for her sake, and at last wounded almost to death by Troilus’s spear. The end of the story is assured in her first discreetly halting words.

Enough has been said to show how far Benoit was from Omers qui fu clers merveillos, and what a story in some thirty thousand lines he has made of the dry data of “Dares” and “Dictys.” His Briseida, with her changing heart, was to[Pg 229] rival steadier-minded but not more lovable women of mediaeval fiction—Iseult or Guinevere. And although the far-off echo of Briseid’s name comes from the ancient centuries, none the less she is as entirely a mediaeval creation as Lancelot’s or Tristram’s queen. Thus the Middle Ages took the antique narrative, and created for themselves within the altered lines of the old tale.[338]

The transformation of themes of epic story in vernacular mediaeval versions is paralleled by mediaeval refashionings of historical subjects which had been fictionized before the antique period closed. A chief example is the romance of Alexander the Great. The antique source was the conqueror’s Life and Deeds, written by one who took the name of Alexander’s physician, Callisthenes. The author was some Egyptian Greek of the first century after Christ. His work is preposterous from the beginning to the end, and presents a succession of impossible marvels performed by the somewhat indistinguishable heroes of the story. Its qualities were reflected in the Latin versions, which in turn were drawn upon by the Old French rhyming romancers.[Pg 230] The latter mediaevalized and feudalized the tale. Nor were they halted by any absurdity, or conscious of the characterlessness of the puppets of the tale.[339]

Further to pursue the fortunes of antique themes in mediaeval literature would lead us beyond bounds. Yet mention should be made of the handling of minor narratives, as the Metamorphoses of Ovid. They were very popular, and from the twelfth century on, paraphrases or refashionings were made of many of them. These added to the old tale the interesting mediaeval element of the moral or didactic allegory. The most prodigious instance of this moralizing of Ovid was the work of Chrétien Légouais, a French Franciscan who wrote at the beginning of the fourteenth century. In some seventy thousand lines he presented the stories of the Metamorphoses, the allegories which he discovered in them, and the moral teaching of the same.[340]

Equally interesting was the application of allegory to Ovid’s Ars amatoria. The first translators treated this frivolous production as an authoritative treatise upon the art of winning love. So it was perhaps, only Ovid was amusing himself by making a parable of his youthful diversions. Mediaeval imitators changed the habits of the gilded youth of Rome to suit the society of their time. But they did more, being votaries of courtly love. Such love in the Middle Ages had its laws which were prone to deduce their lineage from Ovid’s verses. But its uplifted spirit revelled in symbolism; and tended to change to spiritual allegory whatever authority it imagined itself based upon, even though the authority were a book as dissolute, when seriously considered, as the Ars amatoria. It is strange to think of this poem as the very far off street-walking prototype of De Lorris’s Roman de la rose.



[Pg 231]



I. The Fontes Juris Civilis.
II. Roman and Barbarian Codification.
III. The Mediaeval Appropriation.
IV. Church Law.
V. Political Theorizing.

Classical studies, and the gradual development of mediaeval prose and verse, discussed in the preceding chapters, illustrate modes of mediaeval progress. But of all examples of mediaeval intellectual growth through the appropriation of the antique, none is more completely illuminating than the mediaeval use of Roman law. As with patristic theology and antique philosophy, the Roman law was crudely taken and then painfully learned, till in the end, vitally and broadly mastered, it became even a means and mode of mediaeval thinking. Its mediaeval appropriation illustrates the legal capacity of the Middle Ages and their concern with law both as a practical business and an intellectual interest.



Primitive law is practical; it develops through the adjustment of social exigencies. Gradually, however, in an intelligent community which is progressing under favouring influences, some definite consciousness of legal propriety, utility, or justice, makes itself articulate in statements of general principles of legal right and in a steady endeavour to adjust legal relationships and adjudicate actual controversies in accordance. This endeavour to formulate just[Pg 232] and useful principles, and decide novel questions in accordance with them, and enunciate new rules in harmony with the body of the existing law, is jurisprudence, which thus works always for concord, co-ordination, and system.

There was a jurisprudential element in the early law of Rome. The Twelve Tables are trenchant announcements of rules of procedure and substantial law. They have the form of the general imperative: “Thus let it be; If one summons [another] to court, let him go; As a man shall have appointed by his Will, so let it be; When one makes a bond or purchase,[341] as the tongue shall have pronounced it, so let it be.” These statements of legal rules are far from primitive; they are elastic, inclusive, and suited to form the foundation of a large and free legal development. And the consistency with which the law of debt was carried out to its furthest cruel conclusion, the permitted division of the body of the defaulting debtor among several creditors,[342] gave earnest of the logic which was to shape the Roman law in its humaner periods. Moreover, there is jurisprudence in the arrangement of the Laws of the Twelve Tables. Nevertheless the jurisprudential element is still but inchoate.

The Romans were endowed with a genius for law. Under the later Republic and the Empire, the minds of their jurists were trained and broadened by Greek philosophy and the study of the laws of Mediterranean peoples; Rome was becoming the commercial as well as social and political centre of the world. From this happy combination of causes resulted the most comprehensive body of law and the noblest jurisprudence ever evolved by a people. The great jurisconsults of the Empire, working upon the prior labours of long lines of older praetors and jurists, perfected a body of law of well-nigh universal applicability, and throughout logically consistent with general principles of law and equity, recognized as fundamental. These were in part suggested by Greek philosophy, especially by Stoicism as adapted to the Roman temperament. They represented the best ethics,[Pg 233] the best justice of the time. As principles of law, however, they would have hung in the air, had not the practical as well as theorizing genius of the jurisconsults been equal to the task of embodying them in legal propositions, and applying the latter to the decision of cases. Thus was evolved a body of practical rules of law, controlled, co-ordinated, and, as one may say, universalized through the constant logical employment of sound principles of legal justice.[343]

The Roman law, broadly taken, was heterogeneous in origin, and complex in its modes of growth. The great jurisconsults of the Empire recognized its diversity of source, and distinguished its various characteristics accordingly. They assumed (and this was a pure assumption) that every civilized people lived under two kinds of law, the one its own, springing from some recognized law-making source within the community; the other the jus gentium, or the law inculcated among all peoples by natural reason or common needs.

The supposed origin of the jus gentium was not simple. Back in the time of the Republic it had become necessary to recognize a law for the many strangers in Rome, who were not entitled to the protection of Rome’s jus civile. The edict of the praetor Peregrinus covered their substantial rights, and sanctioned simple modes of sale and lease which did not observe the forms prescribed by the jus civile. So this edict became the chief source of the jus gentium so-called, to wit, of those liberal rules of law which ignored the peculiar formalities of the stricter law of Rome. Probably foreign laws, that is to say, the commercial customs of the Mediterranean world, were in fact recognized; and their study led to a perception of elements common to the laws of many peoples. At all events, in course of time the jus gentium came to be regarded as consisting of universal rules of law which all peoples might naturally follow.

[Pg 234]The recognition of these simple modes of contracting obligations, and perhaps the knowledge that certain rules of law obtained among many peoples, fostered the conception of common or natural justice, which human reason was supposed to inculcate everywhere. Such a conception could not fail to spring up in the minds of Roman jurists who were educated in Stoical philosophy, the ethics of which had much to say of a common human nature. Indeed the idea naturalis ratio was in the air, and the thought of common elements of law and justice which naturalis ratio inter omnes homines constituit, lay so close at hand that it were perhaps a mistake to try to trace it to any single source. Practically the jus gentium became identical with jus naturale, which Ulpian imagined as taught by nature to all animals; the jus gentium, however, belonged to men alone.[344]

Thus rules which were conceived as those of the jus gentium came to represent the principles of rational law, and impressed themselves upon the development of the jus civile. They informed the whole growth and application of Roman law with a breadth of legal reason. And conceptions of a jus naturale and a jus gentium became cognate legal fictions, by the aid of which praetor and jurisconsult might justify the validity of informal modes of contract. In their application, judge and jurist learned how and when to disregard the formal requirements of the older and stricter Roman law, and found a way to the recognition of what was just and convenient. These fictions agreed with the supposed nature and demands of aequitas, which is the principle of progressive and discriminating legal justice. Law itself (jus) was[Pg 235] identical with aequitas conceived (after Celsus’s famous phrase) as the ars boni et aequi.

The Roman law proper, the jus civile, had multifarious sources. First the leges, enacted by the people; then the plebiscita, sanctioned by the Plebs; the senatus consulta, passed by the Senate; the constitutiones and rescripta[345] principum, ordained by the Emperor. Excepting the rescripta, these (to cover them with a modern expression) were statutory. They were laws announced at a specific time to meet some definite exigency. Under the Empire, the constitutiones principum became the most important, and then practically the only kind of legal enactment.

Two or three other sources of Roman law remain for mention: first, the edicta of those judicial magistrates, especially the praetors, who had the authority to issue them. In his edict the praetor announced what he held to be the law and how he would apply it. The edict of each successive praetor was a renewal and expansion or modification of that of his predecessor. Papinian calls this source of law the “jus praetorium, which the praetors have introduced to aid, supplement, or correct the jus civile for the sake of public utility.”

Next, the responsa or auctoritas jurisprudentium, by which were intended the judicial decisions and the authority of the legal writings of the famous jurisconsults. Imperial rescripts recognized these responsa as authoritative for the Roman courts; and some of the emperors embodied portions of them in formally promulgated collections, thereby giving them the force of law. Justinian’s Digest is the great example of this method of codification.[346] One need scarcely add that the authoritative writings and responsa of the jurisconsults extended and applied the jus gentium, that is to say, the rules and principles of the best-considered jurisprudence, freed so far as might be from[Pg 236] the formal peculiarities of the jus civile strictly speaking. And the same was true of the praetorian edict. The Roman law also gave legal effect to inveterata consuetudo, the law which is sanctioned by custom: “for since the laws bind us because established by the decision of the people, those unwritten customs which the people have approved are binding.”[347]

Simply naming the sources of Roman law indicates the ways in which it grew, and the part taken by the jurisconsults in its development as a universal and elastic system. It was due to their labours that legal principles were logically carried out through the mass of enactments and decisions; that is, it was due to their large consideration of the body of existing law, that each novel decision—each case of first impression—should be a true legal deduction, and not a solecism; and that even the new enactments should not create discordant law. And it was due to their labours that as rules of law were called forth, they were stated clearly and in terms of well-nigh universal applicability.

The Laws of the Twelve Tables showed the action of legal intelligence and the result of much experience. They sanctioned a large contractual freedom, if within strict forms; they stated broadly the right of testamentary disposition. Many of their provisions, which commonly were but authoritative recognitions, were expressions of basic legal principles, the application of which might be extended to meet the needs of advancing civic life. And through the enlargement of this fundamental collection of law, or deviating from it in accordance with principles which it implicitly embodied, the jurists of the Republic and the first centuries of the Empire formed and developed a body of private and public law from which the jurisprudence of Europe and America has never even sought to free itself.

Roman jurisprudence was finally incorporated in Justinian’s Digest, which opens with a statement of the most general principles, even those which would have hung in the air but for the Roman genius of logical and practical application to the concrete instance. “Jus est ars[Pg 237] boni et aequi”—it is better to leave these words untranslated, such is the wealth of significance and connotation which they have acquired. “Justitia est constans et perpetua voluntas jus suum cuique tribuendi. Juris praecepta sunt haec: honeste vivere, alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere. Jurisprudentia est divinarum atque humanarum rerum notitia, justi atque injusti scientia.”

The first pregnant phrase is from the older jurist Celsus; the longer passage is by the later Ulpian, and may be taken as an expansion of the first. Both the one and the other expressed the most advanced and philosophic ethics of the ancient world. They are both in the first chapter of the Digest, wherein they become enactments. An extract from Paulus follows: “Jus has different meanings; that which is always aequum ac bonum is called jus, to wit, the jus naturale: jus also means the jus civile, that which is expedient (utile) for all or most in any state. And in our state we have also the praetorian jus.” This passage indicates the course of the development of the Roman law: the fundamental and ceaselessly growing core of specifically Roman law, the jus civile; its continual equitable application and enlargement, which was the praetor’s contribution; and the constant application of the aequum ac bonum, observed perhaps in legal rules common to many peoples, but more surely existing in the high reasoning of jurists instructed in the best ethics and philosophy of the ancient world, and learned and practised in the law.

Now notice some of the still general, but distinctly legal, rather than ethical, rules collected in the Digest: The laws cannot provide specifically for every case that may arise; but when their intent is plain, he who is adjudicating a cause should proceed ad similia, and thus declare the law in the case.[348] Here is stated the general and important formative principle, that new cases should be decided consistently and eleganter, which means logically and in accordance with established rules. Yet legal solecisms will exist, perhaps in a statute or in some rule of law evoked by a special exigency. Their application[Pg 238] is not to be extended. For them the rule is: “What has been accepted contra rationem juris, is not to be drawn out (producendum) to its consequences,”[349] or again: “What was introduced not by principle, but at first through error, does not obtain in like cases.”[350]

These are true principles making for the consistent development of a body of law. Observe the scope and penetration of some other general rules: “Nuptias non concubitus, sed consensus facit.”[351] This goes to the legal root of the whole conception of matrimony, and is still the recognized starting-point of all law upon that subject. Again: “An agreement to perform what is impossible will not sustain a suit.”[352] This is still everywhere a fundamental principle of the law of contracts. Again: “No one can transfer to another a greater right than he would have himself,”[353] another principle of fundamental validity, but, of course, like all rules of law subject in its application to the qualifying operation of other legal rules.

Roman jurisprudence recognized the danger of definition: “Omnis definitio in jure civili periculosa est.”[354] Yet it could formulate admirable ones; for example: “Inheritance is succession to the sum total (universum jus) of the rights of the deceased.”[355] This definition excels in the completeness of its legal view of the matter, and is not injured by the obvious omission to exclude those personal privileges and rights of the deceased which terminate upon his death.

Thus we note the sources and constructive principles of the Roman law. We observe that while certain of the former might be called “statutory,” the chief means and method of development was the declarative edict of the praetor and the trained labour of the jurisconsults. In these appears the consummate genius of Roman jurisprudence, a jurisprudence matchless in its rational conception of principles of justice which were rooted in a philosophic consideration of human life; matchless also in its carrying through of such principles into the body of the law and the decision of every case.

 [Pg 239]


The Roman law was the creation of the genius of Rome and also the product of the complex civilization of which Rome was the kinetic centre. As the Roman power crumbled, Teutonic invaders established kingdoms within territories formerly subject to Rome and to her law—a law, however, which commonly had been modified to suit the peoples of the provinces. Those territories retained their population of provincials. The invaders, Burgundians, Visigoths, and Franks, planting themselves in the different parts of Gaul, brought their own law, under which they continued to live, but which they did not force upon the provincial population. On the contrary, Burgundian and Visigothic kings promulgated codes of Roman law for the latter. And these represent the forms in which the Roman law first passed over into modes of acceptance and application no longer fully Roman, but partly Teutonic and incipiently mediaeval. They exemplify, moreover, the fact, so many aspects of which have been already noticed, of transitional and partly barbarized communities drawing from a greater past according to their simpler needs.

One may say that these codes carried on processes of decline from the full creative genius of Roman jurisprudence, which had irrevocably set in under the Empire in the fourth and fifth centuries. The decline lay in a weakening of the intellectual power devoted to the law and its development. The living growth of the praetorian edict had long since come to an end; and now a waning jurisprudential intelligence first ceased to advance the development of law, and then failed to save from desuetude the achieved jurisprudence of the past. So the jurisprudential and juridical elements (jus) fell away from the law, and the imperial constitutions (leges) remained the sole legal vehicle and means of amendment. The need of codification was felt, and that preserving and eliminating process was entered upon.

Roman codification never became a reformulation. The Roman Codex was a collection of existing constitutions. A[Pg 240] certain jurist (“Gregorianus”) made an orderly and comprehensive collection of such as early as the close of Diocletian’s reign; it was supplemented by the work of another jurist (“Hermogenianus”) in the time of Constantine. Each compilation was the work of a private person, who, without authority to restate, could but compile the imperial constitutions. The same method was adopted by the later codifications, which were made and promulgated under imperial decree. There were two which were to be of supreme importance for the legal future of western Europe, the Theodosian Code and the legislation of Justinian. The former was promulgated in 438 by Theodosius II. and Valentinianus. The emperors formally announce that “in imitation (ad similitudinem) of the Code of Gregorianus and Hermogenianus we have decreed that all the Constitutions should be collected” which have been promulgated by Constantine and his successors, including ourselves.[356] So the Theodosian Code contains many laws of the emperors who decreed it.[357] It was thus a compilation of imperial constitutions already in existence, or decreed from year to year while the codification was in process (429-438). Every constitution is given in the words of its original announcement, and with the name of the emperor. Evidently this code was not a revision of the law.

The codification of Justinian began with the promulgation of the Codex in 529. That was intended to be a compilation of the constitutions contained in the previous codes and still in force, as well as those which had been decreed since the time of Theodosius. The compilers received authority to omit, abbreviate, and supplement. The Codex was revised and promulgated anew in 534. The constitutions which were decreed during the remainder of Justinian’s long reign were collected after his death and published as Novellae. So far there was nothing radically novel. But, under Justinian, life and art seemed to have revived in the East; and Tribonian, with the others who assisted in these labours, had larger views of legal reform and jurisprudential[Pg 241] conservation than the men who worked for Theodosius. Justinian and his coadjutors had also serious plans for improving the teaching of the law, in the furtherance of which the famous little book of Institutes was composed after the model, and to some extent in the words, of the Institutes of Gaius. It was published in 533.

The great labour, however, which Justinian and his lawyers were as by Providence inspired to achieve was the encyclopaedic codification of the jurisprudential law. Part of the emperor’s high-sounding command runs thus:

“We therefore command you to read and sift out from the books pertaining to the jus Romanum composed by the ancient learned jurists (antiqui prudentes) to whom the most sacred emperors granted authority to indite and interpret the laws, so that the material may all be taken from these writers, and incongruity avoided—for others have written books which have been neither used nor recognized. When by the favour of the Deity this material shall have been collected, it should be reared with toil most beautiful, and consecrated as the own and most holy temple of justice, and the whole law (totum jus) should be arranged in fifty books under specific titles.”[358]

The language of the ancient jurists was to be preserved even critically, that is to say, the compilers were directed to emend apparent errors and restore what seemed “verum et optimum et quasi ab initio scriptum.” It was not the least of the providential mercies connected with the compilation of this great body of jurisprudential law, that Justinian and his commission did not abandon the phrasing of the old jurisconsults, and restate their opinions in such language as we have a sample of in the constitution from which the above extract is taken. This jurisprudential part of Justinian’s Codification was named the Digest or Pandects.[359]

Inasmuch as Justinian’s brief reconquest of western portions of the Roman Empire did not extend north of the Alps, his codification was not promulgated in Gaul or[Pg 242] Germany. Even in Italy his legislation did not maintain itself in general dominance, especially in the north where the Lombard law narrowed its application. Moreover, throughout the peninsula, the Pandects quickly became as if they were not, and fell into desuetude, if that can be said of a work which had not come into use. This body of jurisprudential law was beyond the legal sense of those monarchically-minded and barbarizing centuries, which knew law only as the command of a royal lawgiver. The Codex and the Novellae were of this nature. They, and not the Digest, represent the influence upon Italy of Justinian’s legislation until the renewed interest in jurisprudence brought the Pandects to the front at the close of the eleventh century. But Codex and Novellae were too bulky for a period that needed to have its intellectual labours made easy. From the first, the Novellae were chiefly known and used in the condensed form given them in the excellent Epitome of Julianus, apparently a Byzantine of the last part of Justinian’s reign.[360] The cutting down and epitomizing of the Codex is more obscure; probably it began at once; the incomplete or condensed forms were those in common use.[361]

It is, however, with the Theodosian Code and certain survivals of the works of the great jurists that we have immediately to do. For these were the sources of the codes enacted by Gothic and Burgundian kings for their Roman or Gallo-Roman subjects. Apparently the earliest of them was prepared soon after the year 502, at the command of Gondebaud, King of the Burgundians. This, which later was dubbed the Papianus,[362] was the work of a skilled Roman lawyer, and seems quite as much a text-book as a code. It set forth the law of the topics important for the Roman provincials living in the Burgundian kingdom, not merely making extracts from its sources, but stating their contents and referring to them as authorities. These sources[Pg 243] were substantially the same as those used by the Visigothic Breviarium, which was soon to supersede the Papianus even in Burgundy.

Breviarium was the popular name of the code enacted by the Visigothic king Alaric II. about the year 506 for his provinciales in the south of Gaul.[363] It preserved the integrity of its sources, giving the texts in the same order, and with the same rubrics, as in the original. The principal source was the Theodosian Code; next in importance the collections of Novellae of Theodosius and succeeding emperors: a few texts were taken from the Codes of “Gregorianus” and “Hermogenianus.” These parts of the Breviarium consisted of leges, that is, of constitutions of the emperors. Two sources of quite a different character were also drawn upon. One was the Institutes of Gaius, or rather an old epitome which had been made from it. The other was the Sententiae of Paulus, the famous “Five Books of Sentences ad filium.” This work of elementary jurisprudence deserved its great repute; yet its use in the Breviarium may have been due to the special sanction which had been given it in one of the constitutions of the Theodosian Code, also taken over into the Breviarium: “Pauli quoque sententias semper valere praecipimus.”[364] The same constitution confirmed the Institutes of Gaius, among other great jurisconsults. Presumably these two works were the most commonly known as well as the clearest and best of elementary jurisprudential compositions.

An interesting feature of the Breviarium, and destined to be of great importance, was the Interpretatio accompanying all its texts, except those drawn from the epitome of Gaius. This was not the work of Alaric’s compilers, but probably represents the approved exposition of the leges, with the exposition of the already archaic Sentences of Paulus, current in the law schools of southern Gaul in the fifth century. The Interpretatio thus taken into the Breviarium had, like the texts, the force of royal law, and soon was to surpass them in practice by reason of its[Pg 244] perspicuity and modernity. Many manuscripts contain only the Interpretatio and omit the texts.

The Breviarium became the source of Roman law, indeed the Roman law par excellence, for the Merovingian and then the Carolingian realm, outside of Italy. It was soon subjected to the epitomizing process, and its epitomes exist, dating from the eighth to the tenth century: they reduced it in bulk, and did away with the practical inconvenience of lex and interpretatio. Further, the Breviarium, and even the epitomes, were glossed with numerous marginal or interlinear notes made by transcribers or students. These range from definitions of words, sometimes taken from Isidore’s Etymologiae, to brief explanations of difficulties in the text.[365] In like manner in Italy, the Codex and Novellae of Justinian were, as has been said, reduced to epitomes, and also equipped with glosses.

These barbaric codes of Roman law mark the passage of Roman law into incipiently mediaeval stages. On the other hand, certain Latin codes of barbarian law present the laws of the Teutons touched with Roman conceptions, and likewise becoming inchoately mediaeval.

Freedom, the efficient freedom of the individual, belongs to civilization rather than to barbarism. The actual as well as imaginary perils surrounding the lives of men who do not dwell in a safe society, entail a state of close mutual dependence rather than of liberty. Law in a civilized community has the twofold purpose of preserving the freedom of the individual and of maintaining peace. With each advance in human progress, the latter purpose, at least in the field of private civil law, recedes a little farther, while[Pg 245] the importance of private law, as compared with penal law, constantly increases.

The law of uncivilized peoples lacks the first of these purposes. Its sole conscious object is to maintain, or at least provide a method of maintaining peace; it is scarcely aware that in maintaining peace it is enhancing the freedom of every individual.

The distinct and conscious purpose of early Teutonic law was to promote peace within the tribe, or among the members of a warband. Thus was law regarded by the people—as a means of peace. Its communication or ordainment might be ascribed to a God or a divine King. But in reality its chief source lay in slowly growing regulative custom.[366] The force of law, or more technically speaking the legal sanction, lay in the power of the tribe to uphold its realized purpose as a tribe; for the power to maintain its solidarity and organization was the final test of its law-upholding strength.

Primarily the old Teutonic law looked to the tribe and its sub-units, and scarcely regarded the special claims of an individual, or noticed mitigating or aggravating elements in his culpability—answerability rather. It prescribed for his peace and protection as a member of a family, or as one included within the bands of Sippe (blood relationship); or as one of a warband or a chief’s close follower, one of his comitatus. On the other hand, the law was stiff, narrow, and ungeneralized in its recognized rules. The first Latin codifications of Teutonic law are not to be compared for breadth and elasticity of statement to the Law of the Twelve Tables. And their substance was more primitive.[367]

The earliest of these first codifications was the Lex Salica, codified under Clovis near the year 500. Unquestionably, contact with Roman institutions suggested the idea, even as the Latin language was the vehicle, of this code. Otherwise the Lex Salica is un-Christian and un-Roman, although probably it was put together after Clovis’s baptism. It was not a comprehensive codification, and omitted much[Pg 246] that was common knowledge at the time; which now makes it somewhat enigmatical. One finds in it lists of thefts of every sort of object that might be stolen, and of the various injuries to the person that might be done, and the sum of money to be paid in each case as atonement or compensation. Such schedules did not set light store on life and property. On the contrary, they were earnestly intended as the most available protection of elemental human rights, and as the best method of peaceful redress. The sums awarded as Wergeld were large, and were reckoned according to the slain man’s rank. By committing a homicide, a man might ruin himself and even his blood relatives (Sippe) and of course on failure to atone might incur servitude or death or outlawry.

The Salic law is scarcely touched by the law of Rome. From this piece of intact Teutonism the codes of other Teuton peoples shade off into bodies of law partially Romanized, that is, affected by the provincialized Roman law current in the locality where the Teutonic tribe found a home. The codes of the Burgundians and the Visigoths in southern France are examples of this Teutonic-Romanesque commingling. On the other hand, the Lombard codes, though later in time, held themselves even harshly Teutonic, as opposed to any influence from the law of the conquered Italian population, for whom the Lombards had less regard than Burgundians and Visigoths had for their subject provincials. Moreover, as the Frankish realm extended its power over other Gallo-Teuton states, the various Teuton laws modified each other and tended toward uniformity. Naturally the law of the Franks, first the Salic and then the partly derivative Ribuarian code, exerted a dominating influence.[368]

These Teuton peoples regarded law as pertaining to the tribe. There was little conscious intention on their part of forcing their laws on the conquered. When the Visigoths established their kingdom in southern France they had no idea of changing the law of the Gallo-Roman provincials living within the Visigothic rule; and shortly afterwards, when the Franks extended their power over the still Roman[Pg 247] parts of Gaul, and then over Alemanni, Burgundians, and Visigoths, they likewise had no thought of forcing their laws either upon Gallo-Romans or upon the Teuton people previously dominant within a given territory. This remained true even of the later Frankish period, when the Carolingians conquered the Lombard kingdom in upper Italy.

Indeed, to all these Teutons and to the Roman provincials as well, it seemed as a matter of course that tribal or local laws should be permitted to endure among the peoples they belonged to. These assumptions and the conditions of the growing Frankish Empire evoked, as it were, a more acute mobilization of the principle that to each people belonged its law. For provincials and Teuton peoples were mingling throughout the Frankish realm, and the first obvious solution of the legal problems arising was to hold that provincials and Teutons everywhere should remain amenable and entitled to their own law, which was assumed to attend them as a personal appurtenance. Of course this solution became intolerable as tribal blood and delimitations were obscured, and men moved about through the territories of one great realm. Archbishop Agobard of Lyons remarks that one might see five men sitting together, each amenable to a different law.[369] The escape from this legal confusion was to revert to the idea of law and custom as applying to every one within a given territory. The personal principle gradually gave way to this conception in the course of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries.[370] In the meanwhile during the Merovingian, and more potently in the Carolingian period, king’s law, as distinguished from people’s law, had been an influence making for legal uniformity throughout that wide conglomerate empire which acknowledged the authority of the Frankish king or emperor. The king’s law might emanate from the delegated authority, and arise from the practices, of royal functionaries;[Pg 248] it was most formally promulgated in Capitularies, which with Charlemagne reach such volume and importance. Some of these royal ordinances related to a town or district only. Others were for the realm, and the latter not only were instances of law applying universally, but also tended to promote, or suggest, the harmonizing of laws which they did not modify directly.



The Roman law always existed in the Middle Ages. Provincialized and changed, it was interwoven in the law and custom of the land of the langue d’oc and even in the customary law of the lands where the langue d’oil was spoken. Through the same territory it existed also in the Breviarium and its epitomes. There was very little of it in England, and scarcely a trace in the Germany east of the Rhine. In Italy it was applied when not superseded by the Lombard codes, and was drawn from works based on the Codex and Novels of Justinian. But the jurisprudential law contained in Justinian’s Digest was as well forgotten in Italy as in any land north of the Alps, where the Codification of Justinian had never been promulgated. The extent to which the classic forms of Roman law were known or unknown, unforgotten or forgotten, was no accident as of codices or other writings lost accidentally. It hung upon larger conditions—whether society had reached that stage of civilized exigency demanding the application of an advanced commercial law, and whether there were men capable of understanding and applying it. This need and the capacity to understand would be closely joined.[371]

The history of the knowledge and understanding of Roman law in the Middle Ages might be resolved into a consideration of the sources drawn upon, and the extent and manner of their use, from century to century. In the fifth century, when the Theodosian Code was promulgated, law was thought of chiefly as the mandate of a ruler. The[Pg 249] Theodosian Code was composed of constitutiones principum. Likewise the Breviarium, based upon it, and other barbarian codes of Roman law, were ordained by kings; and so were the codes of Teutonic law. For law, men looked directly to the visible ruler. The jus, reasoned out by the wisdom of trained jurists, had lost authority and interest. To be sure, a hundred years later Justinian’s Commission put together in the Digest the body of jurisprudential law; but even in Italy where his codification was promulgated, the Digest fell still-born. Never was an official compilation of less effect upon its own time, or of such mighty import for times to come.

The Breviarium became par excellence the code of Roman law for the countries included in the present France. With its accompanying Interpretatio it was a work indicating intelligence on the part of its compilers, whose chief care was as to arrangement and explanation. But the time was not progressive, and a gathering mental decadence was shown by the manner in which the Breviarium was treated and used, to wit, epitomized in many epitomes, and practically superseded by them. Here was double evidence of decay; for the supersession of such a work by such epitomes indicates a diminishing legal knowledge in the epitomizers, and also a narrowing of social and commercial needs in the community, for which the original work contained much that was no longer useful.

There were, of course, epitomes and epitomes. Such a work as the Epitome Juliani, in which a good Byzantine lawyer of Justinian’s time presented the substance of the Novellae, was an excellent compendium, and deserved the fame it won. Of a lower order were the later manipulations of Justinian’s Codex, by which apparently the Codex was superseded in Italy. One of these was the Summa Perusina of the ninth or tenth century, a wretched work, and one of the blindest.[372]

Justinian’s Codex and Julian’s Epitome were equipped with glosses, some of which are as early as Justinian’s time; but the greater part are later. The glosses to Justinian’s legislation resemble those of the Breviarium before referred[Pg 250] to. That is to say, as the centuries pass downward toward the tenth, the glosses answer to cruder needs: they become largely translations of words, often taken from Isidore’s Etymologiae.[373] Indeed many of them appear to have had merely a grammatical interest, as if the text was used as an aid in the study of the Latin language.

The last remark indicates a way in which a very superficial acquaintance with the Roman law was kept up through the centuries prior to the twelfth: it was commonly taught in the schools devoted to elementary instruction, that is to say, to the Seven Liberal Arts. In many instances the instructors had only such knowledge as they derived from Isidore, that friend of every man. That is, they had no special knowledge of law, but imparted various definitions to their pupils, just as they might teach them the names of diseases and remedies, a list of which (and nothing more) they would also find in Isidore. It was all just as one might have expected. Elementary mediaeval education was encyclopaedic in its childish way; and, in accordance with the methods and traditions of the transition centuries, all branches of instruction were apt to be turned to grammar and rhetoric, and made linguistic, so to speak—mere subjects for curious definition. Thus it happened to law as well as medicine. Yet some of the teachers may have had a practical acquaintance with legal matters, with an understanding for legal documents and skill to draw them up.

The assertion also is warranted that at certain centres of learning substantial legal instruction was given; one may even speak of schools of law. Scattered information touching all the early mediaeval periods shows that there was no time when instruction in Roman law could not be obtained somewhere in western Europe. To refer to France, the Roman law was very early taught at Narbonne; at Orleans it was taught from the time of Bishop Theodulphus, Charlemagne’s contemporary, and probably the teaching of it long continued. One may speak in the same way of Lyons; and in the eleventh century Angers was famed for the study of law.

Our information is less broken as to an Italy where through the early Middle Ages more general opportunities[Pg 251] offered for elementary education, and where the Roman law, with Justinian’s Codification as a base, made in general the law of the land. There is no reason to suppose that it was not taught. Contemporary allusions bear witness to the existence of a school of law in Rome in the time of Cassiodorus and afterwards, which is confirmed by a statement of the jurist Odofredus in the thirteenth century. At Pavia there was a school of law in the time of Rothari, the legislating Lombard king; this reached the zenith of its repute in the eleventh century. Legal studies also flourished at Ravenna, and succumbed before the rising star of the Bologna school at the beginning of the twelfth century.[374] In these and doubtless many other cities[375] students were instructed in legal practices and formulae, and some substance of the Roman law was taught. Extant legal documents of various kinds afford, especially for Italy, ample evidence of the continuous application of the Roman law.[376]

As for the merits and deficiencies of legal instruction in Italy and in France, an idea may be gained from the various manuals that were prepared either for use in the schools of law or for the practitioner. Because of the uncertainty, however, of their age and provenance, it is difficult to connect them with a definite foyer of instruction.

Until the opening of the twelfth century, or at all events until the last quarter of the eleventh, the legal literature evinces scarcely any originality or critical capacity. There are glosses, epitomes, and collections of extracts, more or less condensed or confused from whatever text the compiler had before him. Little jurisprudential intelligence appears in any writings which are known to precede the close of the eleventh century; none, for instance, in the epitomes of the Breviarium and the glosses relating to that code; none in[Pg 252] those works of Italian origin the material for which was drawn directly or indirectly from the Codex or Novels of Justinian, for instance the Summa Perusina and the Lex Romana canonice compta, both of which probably belong to the ninth century. Such compilations were put together for practical use, or perhaps as aids to teaching.

Thus, so far as inference may be drawn from the extant writings, the legal teaching in any school during this long period hardly rose above an uncritical and unenlightened explanation of Roman law somewhat mediaevalized and deflected from its classic form and substance. There was also practical instruction in current legal forms and customs. Interest in the law had not risen above practical needs, nor was capacity shown for anything above a mechanical handling of the matter. Legal study was on a level with the other intellectual phenomena of the period.

In an opusculum[377] written shortly after the middle of the eleventh century, Peter Damiani bears unequivocal, if somewhat hostile, witness to the study of law at Ravenna; and it is clear that in his time legal studies were progressing in both France and Italy. It is unsafe to speak more definitely, because of the difficulty in fixing the time and place of certain rather famous pieces of legal literature, which show a marked advance upon the productions to be ascribed with certainty to an earlier time. The reference is to the Petri exceptiones and the Brachylogus. The critical questions relating to the former are too complex even to outline here. Both its time and place are in dispute. The ascribed dates range from the third quarter of the eleventh century to the first quarter of the twelfth, a matter of importance, since the opening of the twelfth century is marked by the rise of the Bologna school. As for the place, some scholars still adhere to the south of France, while others look to Pavia or Ravenna. On the whole, the weight of argument seems to favour Italy and a date not far from 1075.[378]

The Petrus, as it is familiarly called, is drawn from[Pg 253] immediately prior and still extant compilations. The compiler wished to give a compendious if not systematic presentation of law as accepted and approved in his time, that is to say, of Roman law somewhat mediaevalized in tone, and with certain extraneous elements from the Lombard codes. The ultimate Roman sources were the Codification of Justinian, and indeed all of it, Digest, Codex, and Novels, the last in the form to which they had been brought in Julian’s Epitome. The purpose of the compilation is given in the Prologue,[379] which in substance is as follows:

“Since for many divers reasons, on account of the great and manifold difficulties in the laws, even the Doctors of the laws cannot without pains reach a certain opinion, we, taking account of both laws, to wit, the jus civile and the jus naturale, unfold the solution of controversies under plain and patent heads. Whatever is found in the laws that is useless, void, or contrary to equity, we trample under our feet. Whatever has been added and surely held to, we set forth in its integral meaning so that nothing may appear unjust or provocative of appeal from thy judgments, Odilo;[380] but all may make for the vigour of justice and the praise of God.”

The arrangement of topics in the Petrus hardly evinces any clear design. The substance, however, is well presented. If there be a question to be solved, it is plainly stated, and the solution arrived at may be interesting. For example, a case seems to have arisen where the son of one who died intestate had seized the whole property to the exclusion of the children of two deceased daughters. The sons of one daughter acquiesced. The sons of the other per placitum et guerram forced their uncle to give up their share. Thereupon the supine cousins demanded to share in what had so been won. The former contestants resisted on the plea that the latter had borne no aid in the contest and that they had obtained only their own portion. The decision was that the supine cousins might claim their heritage from whoever held it, and should receive their share in what the[Pg 254] successful contestants had won; but that the latter could by counter-actions compel them to pay their share of the necessary expenses of the prior contest.[381]

Sometimes the Petrus seems to draw a general rule of law from the apparent instances of its application in Justinian’s Codification. Therein certain formalities were prescribed in making a testament, in adopting a son, or emancipating a slave. The Petrus draws from them the general principle that where the law prescribes formalities, the transaction is not valid if they are omitted.[382] In fine, unsystematized as is the arrangement of topics, the work presents an advance in legal intelligence over mediaeval law-writings earlier than the middle of the eleventh century.

If the Petrus was adapted for use in practice, the Brachylogus, on the other hand, was plainly a book of elementary instruction, formed on the model of Justinian’s Institutes. But it made use of his entire codification, the Novels, however, only as condensed in Julian’s Epitome. The influence of the Breviarium is also noticeable; which might lead one to think that the treatise was written in Orleans or the neighbourhood, since the Breviarium was not in use in Italy, while the Codification of Justinian was known in France by the end of the eleventh century. The beginning of the twelfth is the date usually given to the Brachylogus. It does not belong to the Bologna school of glossators, but rather immediately precedes them, wherever it was composed.[383]

The Brachylogus, as a book of Institutes, compares favourably with its model, from the language of which it departed at will. Both works are divided into four libri; but the libri of the Brachylogus correspond better to the logical divisions of the law. Again, frequently the author of the Brachylogus breaks up the chapters of Justinian’s Institutes and gives the subject-matter under more pertinent headings. Sometimes the statements of the older work are improved by rearrangement. The definitions of the[Pg 255] Brachylogus are pithy and concise, even to a fault. Often the exposition is well adapted to the purposes of an elementary text-book,[384] which was meant to be supplemented by oral instruction. On the whole, the work shows that the author is no longer encumbered by the mass or by the advanced character of his sources. He restates their substance intelligently, and thinks for himself. He is no compiler, and his work has reached the rank of a treatise.

The merits of the Brachylogus as an elementary text-book are surpassed by those of the so-called Summa Codicis Irnerii, a book which may mark the beginning of the Bologna school of law, and may even be the composition of its founder. Many arguments are adduced for this authorship.[385] The book has otherwise been deemed a production of the last days of the school of law at Rome just before the school was broken up by some catastrophe as to which there is little information. In that case the work would belong to the closing years of the eleventh century, whereas the authorship of Irnerius would bring it to the beginning of the twelfth. At all events, its lucid jurisprudential reasoning precludes the likelihood of an earlier origin.

This Summa is an exposition of Roman law, following the arrangement and titles of Justinian’s Codex, but making extensive use of the Digest. It thus contains Roman jurisprudential law, and may be regarded as a compendious text-book for law students, forming apparently the basis of a course of lectures which treated the topics more at length.[386] The author’s command of his material is admirable, and his presentation masterly. Whether he was Irnerius or some one else, he was a great teacher. His work may be also called academic, in that his standpoint is always that of the Justinianean law, although he limits his exposition to those topics which had living interest for the twelfth century. Private substantial law forms the chief matter, but procedure is set forth and penal law touched upon. The author[Pg 256] appreciates the historical development of the Roman law and the character of its various sources—praetorian law, constitutiones principum, and responsa prudentium. He also shows independence, and a regard for legal reasoning and the demands of justice. While he sets forth the jus civile, his exposition and approval follow the dictates of the jus naturale.

“The established laws are to be understood benignly, so as to preserve their spirit, and prevent their departure from equity; for the Judge recognizes ordainments as legitimate when they conform to the principles of justice (ratio equitatis).... Interpretation is sometimes general and imperative, as when the lawgiver declares it: then it must be applied not only to the matter for which it is announced, but in all like cases. Sometimes an interpretation is imperative, but only for the special case, like the interpretation which is declared by those adjudicating a cause. It is then to be accepted in that cause, but not in like instances; for not by precedents, but by the laws are matters to be adjusted. There is another kind of interpretation which binds no one, that made by teachers explaining an ambiguous law, for although it may be admissible because sound, still it compels no one. For every interpretation should so be made as not to depart from justice, and that all absurdity may be avoided and no door opened to fraud.”[387]

One must suppose that such concise statements were explained and qualified in the author’s lectures. But even as they stand, they afford an exposition of Roman principles of interpretation. Not only under the Roman Empire, but subsequently in mediaeval times, the Roman lawyer or the canonist did not pay the deference to adjudicated precedent which is felt by the English or American judge. The passage in the Codex which “Irnerius” was expounding commands that the judge, in deciding a case, shall follow the laws and the reasoning of the great jurists, rather than the decision of a like controversy.

Since the author of this Summa weighs the justice, the reason, and the convenience of the laws, and compares them with each other, his book is a work of jurisprudence. Its qualities may be observed in its discussion of possession and the rights arising therefrom. The writer has just been[Pg 257] expounding the usucapio, an institution of the jus civile strictly speaking, whereby the law of Rome in certain instances protected and, after three years, perfected, the title to property which one had in good faith acquired from a vendor who was not the owner:

“Now we must discuss the ratio possessionis. Usucapio in the jus civile hinges on possession, and ownership by the jus naturale may take its origin in possession. There are many differences in the ways of acquiring possession, which must be considered. And since in the constitutiones and responsa prudentium divers reasons are adduced regarding possession, my associates have begged that I would expound this important and obscure subject in which is mingled the ratio both of the civil and the natural law. So I will do my best. First one must consider what possession is, how it is acquired, maintained, or lost. Possession (here the author follows Paulus and Labeo in the Digest) is as when one’s feet are set upon a thing, when body naturally rests on body. To acquire possession is to begin to possess. Herein one considers both the fact and the right. The fact arises through ourselves or our representative. It is understood differently as to movables and as to land; for the movable we take in our hand, but we take possession of a farm by going upon it with this intent and laying hold of a sod. The intent to possess is crucial. Thus a ring put in the hand of a sleeper is not possessed for lack of intent on his part. You possess naturally when with mind and body (yours or another’s who represents you) you hold or sit upon with intent to possess. Corporeal things you properly possess, and acquire possession of, by your own or your agent’s hand. In the same manner you retain. Incorporeal things cannot be possessed properly speaking, but the civil law accords a quasi possession of them.”

Then follows a discussion of the persons through whom another may have possession, and of the various modes of possessing longa manu without actual touch:

“It is one thing when the possession begins with you, and another when it is transferred to you by a prior possessor: for possession begins in three ways, by occupation, accession, and transfer. You occupy the thing that belongs to no one. By accession you acquire possession in two ways. Thus the increment may be possessed, as the fruit of thy handmaid; or the accession consists in the union with a larger thing which is yours, as when alluvium is deposited on your land. Again possession is transferred to you,”

voluntarily or otherwise. He now discusses the various[Pg 258] modes in which possession is acquired by transfer, then the nature of the justa or injusta causa with which possession may begin, and the effect on the rights of the possessor, and then some matters more peculiar to the time of Justinian. After which he passes to the loss of possession, and concludes with saying that he has endeavoured to go over the whole subject, and whatever is omitted or insufficiently treated, he begs that it be laid to the fault of humanae imbecillitatis. The discussion reads like a carefully drawn outline which his lecture should expand.[388]

The knowledge and understanding of the Roman law in the mediaeval centuries should be viewed in conjunction with the general progress of intellectual aptitude during the same periods. The growth of legal knowledge will then show itself as a part of mediaeval development, as one phase of the flowering of the mediaeval intellect. For the treatment of Roman law presents stages essentially analogous to those by which the Middle Ages reached their understanding and appropriation of other portions of their great inheritance from classical antiquity and the Christianity of the Fathers. Let us recapitulate: the Roman law, adapted, or corrupted if one will, epitomized and known chiefly in its later enacted forms, was never unapplied nor the study of it quite abandoned. It constituted a great part of the law of Italy and southern France; in these two regions likewise was its study least neglected. We have observed the superficial and mainly linguistic nature of the glosses which this early mediaeval period interlined or wrote on the margins of the source-books drawn upon, also the rude and barbarous nature of the earlier summaries and compilations. They were helps to a crude practical knowledge of the law. Gradually the treatment seems to become more intelligent, a little nearer the level of the matter excerpted or made use of. Through the eleventh century it is evident that social conditions were demanding and also facilitating an increase in legal knowledge; and at that century’s close a by no means stupid compilation appears, the Petri exceptiones, and perhaps such a fairly intelligent manual for elementary[Pg 259] instruction as the Brachylogus. These works indicate that the instruction in the law was improving. We have also the sparse references to schools of law, at Rome, at Ravenna, at Orleans. Then we come upon the Summa Codicis called of Irnerius, of uncertain provenance, like the Petrus and Brachylogus. But there is no need to be informed specifically of its place and date in order to recognize its advance in legal intelligence, in veritable jurisprudence. The writer was a master of the law, an adept in its exposition, and his oral teaching must have been of a high order. With this book we have unquestionably touched the level of the strong beginnings of the greatest of mediaeval schools of Roman law.

Its seat was Bologna, one of the chief centres of the civic and commercial life of Lombardy. The Lombards themselves had shown a persistent legal genius: their own Teutonic codes, enacted in Italy, had maintained themselves in that land of Roman law and custom. Lombard codification had almost reached a jurisprudence of its own, at Pavia, the juridical centre of Lombardy. The provisions of various codes had been compared and put together in a sort of Concordia, as early as the ninth century.[389] Possibly the rivalry of Lombard law might stimulate those learned in the law of Rome to sharper efforts to expound it and prove its superiority. Moreover, all sides of civic life and culture were flourishing in that region where novel commercial relations were calling for a corresponding progress in the law, and especially for a better knowledge of the Roman law which alone afforded provision for their regulation.

As some long course of human development approaches its climax, the advance apparently becomes so rapid as to give the impression of something suddenly happening, a sudden leap upward of the human spirit. The velocity of the movement seems to quicken as the summit is neared. One easily finds examples, for instance the fifth century before Christ in Greek art, or the fourth century in Greek philosophy, or again the excellence so quickly reached apparently by the Middle High German poetry just about the year 1200. But may not the seeming suddenness of[Pg 260] the phenomenon be due to lack of information as to antecedents? and the flare of the final achievement even darken what went before? Yet, in fact, as a movement nears its climax, it may become more rapid. For, as the promoting energies and favouring conditions meet in conjunction, their joint action becomes more effective. Forces free themselves from cumbrances and draw aid from one another. Thus when the gradual growth of intellectual faculty effects a conjunction with circumstances which offer a fair field, and the prizes of life as a reward, a rapid increase of power may evince itself in novel and timely productivity.

This may suggest the manner of the apparently sudden rise of the Bologna school of Roman law, which, be it noted, took place but a little before the time of Gratian’s achievement in the Canon law, itself contemporaneous with the appearance of Peter Lombard’s novel Books of Sentences.[390] The preparation, although obscure, existed; and the school after its commencement passed onward through stages of development, to its best accomplishment, and then into a condition of stasis, if not decline. Irnerius apparently was its first master; and of his life little is known. He was a native of Bologna. His name as causidicus is attached to a State paper of the year 1113. Thereafter he appears in the service of the German emperor Henry V. We have no sure trace of him after 1118, though there is no reason to suppose that he did not live and labour for some further years. He had taught the Arts at Ravenna and Bologna before teaching, or perhaps seriously studying, the law. But his career as a teacher of the law doubtless began before the year 1113, when he is first met with as a man of affairs. Accounts agree in ascribing to him the foundation of the school.

Unless the Summa Codicis already mentioned, and a book of Quaestiones, be really his, his glosses upon Justinian’s Digest, Codex, and Novels, are all we have of him;[391] of the[Pg 261] rest we know by report. The glosses themselves indicate that this jurist had been a grammarian, and used the learning of his former profession in his exposition of the law. His interlinear glosses are explanations of words, and would seem to represent his earlier, more tentative, work when he was himself learning the meaning of the law. But the marginal glosses are short expositions of the passages to which they are attached, and perhaps belong to the time of his fuller command over the legal material. They indicate, besides, a critical consideration of the text, and even of the original connection which the passage in the Digest held in the work of the jurisconsult from which it had been taken. Some of them show an understanding of the chronological sequence of the sources of the Roman law, e.g. that the law-making power had existed in the people and then passed to the emperors. These glosses of Irnerius represent a clear advance in jurisprudence over any previous legal comment subsequent to the Interpretatio attached to the Breviarium. It was also part of his plan to equip his manuscripts of the Codex with extracts taken from the text of the Novels, and not from the Epitome of Julian. He appears also as a lawyer versed in the practice of the law. For he wrote a book of forms for notaries and a treatise on procedure, neither of which is extant.[392]

The accomplishment of the Bologna school may be judged more fully from the works, still extant, of some of its chief representatives in the generations following Irnerius. A worthy one was Placentinus, a native of Piacenza. The year of his birth is unknown, but he died in 1192, after a presumably full span of life, passed chiefly as a student and teacher of the law. He taught in Mantua and Montpellier, as well as in Bologna. He was an accomplished jurist and a lover of the classic literature. His work entitled De varietate actionum was apparently the first attempt to set forth the Roman law in an arrangement and form that did not follow the sources.[393] He opens his treatise with an[Pg 262] allegory of a noble dame, hight Jurisprudentia, within the circle of whose sweet and honied utterances many eager youths were thronging. Placentinus drew near, and received from her the book which he now gives to others.[394] This little allegory savours of the De consolatione of Boëthius, or, if one will, of Capella’s De nuptiis Philologiae.

The most admirable surviving work of Placentinus is his Summa of the Codex of Justinian. His autobiographical proemium shows him not lacking in self-esteem, and tells why he undertook the work. He had thought at first to complete the Summa of Rogerius, an older glossator, but then decided to put that book to sleep, and compose a full Summa of the Codex himself, from the beginning to the end. This by the favour of God he has done; it is the work of his own hands, from head to heel, and all the matter is his own—not borrowed. Next he wrote for beginners a Summa of the Institutes. After which he returned to his own town, and shortly proceeded thence to Bologna, whither he had been called. “There in the citadel (in castello) for two years I expounded the laws to students; I brought the other teachers to the threshold of envy; I emptied their benches of students. The hidden places of the law I laid open, I reconciled the conflicts of enactments, I unlocked the secrets most potently.” His success was great, and he was besought to continue his course of lectures. He complied, and remained two years more, and then returned to Montpellier, in order to compose a Summa of the Digest.[395] If indeed Placentinus speaks bombastically of his work, its excellence excuses him. His well-earned reputation as a jurist and scholar long endured.

Quaestiones, Distinctiones, Libri disputationum, Summae of the Codex or the Institutions, and other legal writings, are extant in goodly bulk and number from the Bologna school. The names of the men are almost legion, and many were of great repute in their day both as jurists and as men of affairs. We may mention Azo and Accursius, of a little[Pg 263] later time. Azo’s name appears in public documents from the year 1190 to 1220—and he may have survived the latter date by some years. His works were of such compass and excellence as to supersede those of his predecessors. His glosses still survive, and his Lectura on the Codex, his Summae of the Codex and the Institutes, and his Quaestiones, and Brocarda, the last a sort of work stating general legal propositions and those contradicting them. Azo’s glosses were so complete as to constitute a continuous exposition of the entire legislation of Justinian. His Summae of the Codex and Institutes drove those of Placentinus out of use, which we note with a smile.[396]

None of the glossators is better known than Accursius. He comes before us as a Florentine, and apparently a peasant’s son. He died an old man rich and famous, about the year 1260. Azo was his teacher. In 1252 he was Podesta of Bologna, which indicates the respect in which men held him. Villani, the Florentine historian, describes him as of martial form, grave, thoughtful, even melancholy in aspect, as if always meditating; a man of brilliant talents and extraordinary memory, sober and chaste in life, but delighting in noble vesture. His hearers drank in the laws of living from his mien and manners no less than from the dissertations of his mouth.[397] Late in life he retired to his villa, and there in quiet worked on his great Glossa till he died.

This famous, perhaps all too famous, Glossa ordinaria was a digest and, as it proved, a final one, of the glosses of his predecessors and contemporaries. He drew not only from their glosses, but also on their Summae and other writings. He added a good deal of his own. Great as was the feat, the somewhat deadened talent of a compiler shows in the result, which flattened out the individual labours of so many jurists. It came at once into general use in the courts and outside of them; for it was a complete commentary on the Justinianean law, so compendious and convenient that there was no further need of the glosses of earlier men. This book marked the turning-point of the Bologna school, after which its productivity lessened. Its[Pg 264] work was done: Codex, Novels, and above all the Pandects were rescued from oblivion, and fully expounded, so far as the matter in them was still of interest. When the labours of the school had been conveniently heaped together in one huge Glossa, there was no vital inducement to do this work again. The school of the glossators was functus officio. Naturally with the lessening of the call, productivity diminished. Little was left to do save to gloss the glosses, an epigonic labour which would not attract men of talent. Moreover, treating the older glosses, instead of the original text, as the matter to be interpreted was unfavourable to progress in the understanding of the latter.

Yet, for a little, the breath of life was still to stir in the school of the glossators. There was a man of fame, a humanist indeed, named Cino, whose beautiful tomb still draws the lover of things lovely to Pistoia. Cino was also a jurist, and it came to him to be the teacher of one whose name is second to none among the legists of the Middle Ages. This was Bartolus, born probably in the year 1314 at Sassoferrato in the duchy of Urbino. He was a scholar, learned in geometry and Hebrew, also a man of affairs. He taught the law at Pisa and Perugia, and in the last-named town he died in 1357, not yet forty-four years old. Bartolus wrote and compiled full commentaries on the entire Corpus juris civilis; and yet he produced no work differing in kind from works of his predecessors. Moreover, between him and the body of the law rose the great mass of gloss and comment already in existence, through which he did not always penetrate to the veritable Corpus. Yet his labours were inspired with the energy of a vigorous nature, and he put fresh thoughts into his commentaries.[398]

The school of glossators presented the full Roman law to Europe. The careful and critical interpretation of the text of Justinian’s Codification, of the Digest above all, was their great service. In performing it, these jurists also had educated themselves and developed their own intelligence. They had also put together in Summae the results of their own education in the law. These works facilitated legal study and sharpened the faculties of students and professors.[Pg 265] Books of Quaestiones, legal disputations, works upon legal process and formulae, served the same ends.[399] These men were deficient in historical knowledge. Yet they compared Digest, Codex, and Novels; they tried to re-establish the purity of the text; they weighed and they expounded. Theirs was an intellectual effort to master the jurisprudence of Rome: their labours constituted a renaissance of jurisprudence; and the fact that they were often men of affairs as well as professors, kept them from ignoring the practical bearings of the matters which they taught.

The work of the glossators may be compared with that of the theologian philosophers of the thirteenth century—Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas—who were winning for the world a new and comprehensive knowledge of Aristotle. Both jurists and philosophers, in their different spheres, carried through a more profound study, and reached a more comprehensive knowledge, of a great store of antique thought, than previous mediaeval centuries conceived of. Moreover, the interpretation of the Corpus juris was quite as successful as the interpretation of Aristotle. It was in fact surer, because freer from the deflections of religious motive. No consideration of agreement or disagreement with Scripture troubled the glossators’ interpretation of the Digest, though indeed they may have been interested in finding support for whatever political views they held upon the claims of emperor and pope. But this did not disturb them as much as Aristotle’s opinion that the universe was eternal, worried Albertus and Aquinas.



The Church, from the time of its first recognition by the Roman Empire, lived under the Roman law;[400] and the constitutions safeguarding its authority were large and ample before the Empire fell. Constantine, to be sure, never dreamed of the famous “Donation of Constantine”[Pg 266] forged by a later time, yet his enactments fairly launched the great mediaeval Catholic Church upon the career which was to bring it more domination than was granted in this pseudo-charter of its power. A number of Constantine’s enactments were preserved by the Theodosian Code, in which the powers and privileges of Church and clergy were portentously set forth.

The Theodosian Code freed the property of the Church from most fiscal burdens, and the clergy from taxes, from public and military service, and from many other obligations which sometimes the Code groups under the head of sordida munera. The Church might receive all manner of bequests, and it inherited the property of such of its clergy as did not leave near relatives surviving them. Its property generally was inalienable; and the clergy were accorded many special safeguards. Slaves might be manumitted in a church. The church edifices were declared asylums of refuge from pursuers, a privilege which had passed to the churches from the heathen fanes and the statues of the emperors. Constitution after constitution was hurled against the Church’s enemies. The Theodosian Code has one chapter containing sixty-six constitutions directed against heretics, the combined result of which was to deprive them, if not of life and property, at least of protected legal existence.

Of enormous import was the sweeping recognition on the Empire’s part of the validity of episcopal jurisdiction. No bishop might be summoned before a secular court as a defendant, or compelled to give testimony. Falsely to accuse one of the clergy rendered the accuser infamous. All matters pertaining to religion and church discipline might be brought only before the bishop’s court, which likewise had plenary jurisdiction over controversies among the clergy. It was also open to the laity for the settlement of civil disputes. The command not to go to law before the heathen came down from Paul (1 Cor. vi.), and together with the severed and persecuted condition of the early Christian communities, may be regarded as the far source of the episcopal jurisdiction, which thus divinely sanctioned tended to extend its arbitrament to all manner of legal[Pg 267] controversies.[401] To be sure, under the Christian Roman Empire the authority of the Church as well as its privileges rested upon imperial law. Yet the emperors recognized, rather than actually created, the ecclesiastical authority. And when the Empire was shattered, there stood the Church erect amid the downfall of the imperial government, and capable of supporting itself in the new Teutonic kingdoms.

The constitutions of Christian emperors did not from their own force and validity become Ecclesiastical or Canon law—the law relating to Christians as such, and especially to the Church and its functions. The source of that law was God; the Church was its declarative organ. Acceptance on the Church’s part was requisite before any secular law could become a law of the Church.

Canon law may be taken to include theology, or may be limited to the law of the organization and functions of the Church taken in a large sense as inclusive of the laity in their relations to the religion of Christ.[402] Obviously part comes from Christ directly, through the Old Testament as well as New. The other part, and in bulk far greater, emanates from His foundation, the Church, under the guidance of His Spirit, and may be added to and modified by the Church from age to age. It is expressed in custom, universal and established, and it is found in written form in the works of the Fathers, in the decrees of Councils, in the decretals of the popes, and in the concordats and conventions with secular sovereignties. From the beginning, canon law tacitly or expressly adopted the constitutions of the Christian emperors relating to the Church, as well as the Roman law generally, under which the Church lived in its civil relations.

The Church arose within the Roman Empire, and who shall say that its wonderfully efficient and complete organization at the close of the patristic period was not the final creation of the legal and constructive genius of Rome,[Pg 268] newly inspired by the spirit of Christianity? But the centre of interest had been transferred from earth to heaven, and human aims had been recast by the Gospel and the understanding of it reached by Christian doctors. Evidently since the ideals of the Church were to be other than those of the Roman Empire, the law which it accepted or evolved would have ideals different from those of the Roman law. If the great Roman jurists created a legal formulation and rendering of justice adequate for the highly developed social and commercial needs of Roman citizens, the law of the Church, while it might borrow phrases, rules, and even general principles, from that system, could not fail to put new meaning in them. For example, the constant will to render each his due, which was justitia in the Roman law, might involve different considerations where the soul’s salvation, and not the just allotment of the goods of this world, was the law’s chief aim. Again, what new meaning might attach to the honeste vivere and the alterum non laedere of pagan legal ethics. Honeste vivere might mean to do no sin imperilling the soul; alterum non laedere would acquire the meaning of doing nothing to another which might impede his progress toward salvation. Injuries to a man in his temporalities were less important.

Further, Christianity although conceived as a religion for all mankind, was founded on a definite code and revelation. The primary statement was contained in the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. These were for all men, universal in application and of irrefragable validity and truth. Here was some correspondence to the conception of the jus gentium as representative of universal principles of justice and expediency, and therefore as equivalent to the jus naturale. There was something of logical necessity in the transference of this conception to the law of Christ. Says Gratian at the beginning of his Decretum: “It is jus naturae which is contained in the Law and the Gospel, by which every one is commanded to do to another as he would be done by, and forbidden to inflict on him what he does not wish to happen to himself.” Since the Law and the Gospel represent the final law of life for all men, they are par excellence the jus naturae, as well as lex[Pg 269] divina. Gratian quotes from Augustine: “Divinum jus in scripturis divinis habemus, humanum in legibus regum.”[403] And then adds: “By its authority the jus naturale prevails over custom and constitution. Whatever in customs or writings is contrary to the jus naturale is to be held vain and invalid.” Again he says more explicitly: “Since therefore nothing is commanded by natural law other than what God wills to be, and nothing is forbidden except what God prohibits, and since nothing may be found in the canonical Scripture except what is in the divine laws, the laws will rest divinely in nature (divine leges natura consistent). It is evident, that whatever is proved to be contrary to the divine will or canonical Scripture, is likewise opposed to natural law. Wherefore whatever should give way before divine will or Scripture or the divine laws, over that ought the jus naturale to prevail. Therefore whatever ecclesiastical or secular constitutions are contrary to natural law are to be shut out.”[404]

The canon law is a vast sea. Its growth, its age-long agglomerate accretion, the systematization of its huge contents, have long been subjects for controversialists and scholars. Its sources were as multifarious as those of the Roman law. First the Scriptures and the early quasi-apostolic and pseudo-apostolic writings; then the traditions of primitive Christianity and also the writings of the Fathers; likewise ecclesiastical customs, long accepted and legitimate, and finally the two great written sources, the decretals or decisions of the popes and the decrees of councils. From patristic times collections were made of the last. These collections from a chronological gradually acquired a topical and more systemic arrangement, which the compilers followed more completely after the opening of the tenth century. The decisions of the popes also had been collected, and then were joined to conciliar compilations and arranged after the same topical plan.

In all of them there was unauthentic matter, accepted as if its pseudo-authorship or pseudo-source were genuine. But in the stormy times of the ninth century following the[Pg 270] death of Charlemagne, the method of argument through forged authority was exceptionally creative. It produced two masterpieces which won universal acceptance. The first was a collection of false Capitularies ascribed to Charlemagne and Louis the Pious, and ostensibly the work of a certain Benedictus Levita, deacon of the Church of Mainz, who worked in the middle of the century. Far more famous and important was the book of False Decretals, put together and largely written, that is forged, about the same time, probably in the diocese of Rheims, and appearing as the work of Saint Isidore of Seville. This contained many forged letters of the early popes and other forged matter, including the Epistle or “Donation” of Constantine; also genuine papal letters and conciliar decrees. These false collections were accepted by councils and popes, and formed part of subsequent compilations.

From the tenth century onward many such compilations were made, all of them uncritical as to the genuineness of the matter taken, and frequently ill-arranged and discordant. They were destined to be superseded by the great work in which appears the better methods and more highly trained intelligence developing at the Bologna School in the first part of the twelfth century. Its author was Gratianus, a monk of the monastery of St. Felix at Bologna. He was a younger contemporary of Irnerius and of Peter Lombard. Legend made him the latter’s brother, with some propriety; for the compiler of those epoch-making Sentences represents the same stage in the appropriation of the patristic theological heritage of the Middle Ages, that Gratian represents in the handling of the canon law. The Lombard’s Sentences made a systematic and even harmonizing presentation of the theology of the Fathers in their own language; and the equally immortal Decretum of Gratian accomplished a like work for the canon law. This is the name by which his work is known, but not the name he gave it. That appears to have been Concordia discordantium canonum, which indicates his methodical presentation of his matter and his endeavour to reconcile conflicting propositions.

The first part of the Decretum was entitled “De jure[Pg 271] naturae et constitutionis.” It presents the sources of the law, the Church’s organization and administration, the ordination and ranking of the clergy, the election and consecration of bishops, the authority of legates and primates. The second part treats of the procedure of ecclesiastical courts, also the law regulating the property of the Church, the law of monks and the contract of marriage. The third part is devoted to the Sacraments and the Liturgy.

Gratian’s usual method is as follows: He will open with an authoritative proposition. If he finds it universally accepted, it stands as valid. But if there are opposing statements, he tries to reconcile them, either pointing out the difference in date (for the law of the Church may be progressive), or showing that one of the discordant rules had but local or otherwise limited application, or that the first proposition is the rule, while the others make the exceptions. If he still fails to establish concord, he searches to find which rule had been followed in the Roman Church, and accepts that as authoritative. A rule being thus made certain, he proceeds with subdivisions and distinctions, treating them as deductions from the main rule and adjusting the supporting texts. Or he will suppose a controversy (causa) and discuss its main and secondary issues. Throughout he accompanies his authoritative matter with his own commentary—commonly cited as the Dicta Gratiani.[405] The Decretum was characterized by sagacity of interpretation and reconcilement, by vast learning, and clear ordering of the matter. Only it was uncritical as to the genuineness of its materials; and a number of Gratian’s own statements were subsequently disapproved in papal decretals. The Dicta Gratiani never received such formal sanction by pope or council as the writings of Roman jurists received by being taken into Justinian’s Digest.

The papal decretals had become the great source of canonical law. Gratian’s work was soon supplemented by various compilations known as Appendices ad Decretum or Decretales extravagantes, to wit, those which the Decretum[Pg 272] did not contain. These, however, were superseded by the collection, or rather codification, made at the command of the great canonist Gregory IX. and completed in the year 1234. This authoritative work preserved Gratian’s Decretum intact, but suppressed, or abridged and reordered, the decretals contained in subsequent collections. Arranged in five books, it forms the second part of the Corpus juris canonici. In 1298 Boniface VIII. promulgated a supplementary book known as the Sextus of Boniface. This with a new collection promulgated under the authority of Clement V. in 1313, called the Clementinae, and the Extravagantes of his successor John XXII. and certain other popes, constitute the last portions of the Corpus juris canonici.[406]

According to the law of the Empire the emperor’s authority extended over the Church, its doctrine, its discipline, and its property. Such authority was exercised by the emperors from Constantine to Justinian. But the Church had always stood upon the principle that it was better to obey God rather than man. This had been maintained against the power of the pagan Empire, and was not to be sunned out of existence by imperial favour. It was still better to obey God rather than the emperor. The Church still should say who were its members and entitled to participate in the salvation which it mediated. Ecclesiastical authorities could excommunicate; that was their engine of coercion. These principles were incarnate in Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, withstanding and prohibiting Theodosius from Christian fellowship until he had done penance for the massacre at Thessalonica. Of necessity they inhered in the Church; they were of the essence of its strength to fulfil its purpose; they stood for the duly constituted power of Christian resolution to uphold and advance the peremptory truth of Christ.

[Pg 273]So such principles persisted through the time of the hostile and then the favouring Roman Empire. And when the Empire in fact crumbled and fell, what de facto and de jure authority was best fitted to take the place of the imperial supremacy? The Empire represented a universal secular dominion; the Church was also universal, and with a universality now reaching out beyond the Empire’s shrinking boundaries. In the midst of political fragments otherwise disjoined, the Church endured as the universal unity. The power of each Teutonic king was great in fact and law within his realm. Yet he was but a local potency, while the Church existed through his and other realms. And when the power of one Teutonic line (the Carolingian) reached something like universal sway, the Church was also there within and without. It held the learning of the time, and the culture which large-minded seculars respected; and quite as much as the empire of Charlemagne, it held the prestige of Rome. Witness the attitude of Charles Martel and Pippin toward Boniface the great apostle, and the attitude of Boniface toward the Gregories whose legate he proclaimed himself, and upon whose central authority he based his claims to be obeyed. Through the reforms of the Frankish Church, carried out by him with the support of Charles Martel and Pippin, the ecclesiastical supremacy of Rome was established. Charlemagne, indeed, from the nature and necessities of his own transcendent power, possessed in fact the ecclesiastical authority of the Roman emperors, whom men deemed his predecessors. But after him the secular power fell again into fragments scarcely locally efficient, while the Church’s universality of authority endured.

In the unstable fragmentation of secular rule in the ninth century, the Isidorean Decretals presented the truth of the situation as it was to be, although not as it had been in the times of the Church dignitaries whose names were forged for that collection. And thereafter, as the Church recovered from its tenth-century disintegration, it advanced to the pragmatic demonstration of the validity of those false Decretals, on through the tempests of the age of Hildebrand to the final triumph of Innocent III. at the opening of the thirteenth century. Evidently the canon law, whatever[Pg 274] might be its immediate or remote source, drew its authority from the sanction of the Roman Catholic Church, which enunciated it and made it into a body corresponding to the Church’s functions. It was what the Church promulgated as the law of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the kingdom of God on earth. It should be the temporal and legal counterpart of the Church’s spiritual purposes. Its general tendency and purpose was the promotion of the Church’s saving aim, which regarded all things in the light of their relationship to life eternal. Therefore the Church’s law could not but define and consider all worldly interests, all personal and property rights and secular authority, with constant regard to men’s need of salvation. The advancement of that must be the final appellate standard of legal right.

Such was the event. The entire canon law might be lodged within those propositions which Hildebrand enunciated and Innocent III. realized. For the salvation of souls, all authority on earth had been entrusted by Christ to Peter and his successors. Theirs was the spiritual sword; secular power, the sword material, was to be exercised under the pope’s mandate and permission. No king or emperor, no layman whatsoever, was exempt from the supreme authority of the pope, who also was the absolute head of the Church, which had become a monarchy. “The Lord entrusted to Peter not only the universal Church, but the government of the whole world,” writes Innocent III., whose pontificate almost made this principle a fact. In private matters no member of the clergy could be brought before a secular court; and the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts over the laity threatened to reduce the secular jurisdiction to narrow functions.[407] The property of the Church might not be taxed or levied on by any temporal ruler or government; nor could the Church’s functions and authority be controlled or limited by any secular decree. Universally throughout every kingdom the Church was a sovereignty, not only in matters spiritual, but with respect to all the personal and[Pg 275] material relationships that might be connected in any way with the welfare of souls.[408]



The exposition of the Corpus juris civilis in the school of the glossators was of great moment in the evolution of mediaeval political theory, which in its turn yields one more example of the mediaeval application of thoughts derived from antique and patristic sources. Political thinking in the Middle Ages sought its surest foundation in theology; then it built itself up with concepts drawn from the philosophy and social theory of the antique world; and lastly it laid hold on jurisprudence, using the substance and reasoning of the Roman and the Canon law.

Mediaeval ideas upon government and the relations between the individual and his earthly sovereign, started from theological premises, of patristic origin: e.g. that the universe and man were made by God, a miraculous creation, springing from no other cause, and subject to no other fundamental law, than God’s unsearchable will, which never ceases to direct the whole creation to the Creator’s ends. A further premise was the Scriptural revelation of God’s purpose as to man, with all the contents of that revelation touching the overweening importance of man’s deathless soul.

Unity—the unity of the creation—springs from these premises, or is one of them. The principle of this unity is God’s will. Within the universal whole, mankind also constitutes a unit, a community, specially ordained and ordered. The Middle Ages, following the example of the patristic time, were delivered over to allegory, and to an unbridled recognition of the deductions of allegorical reasoning. Mankind was a community. Mankind was also an organism, the mystical body whereof the head was Christ. Here was an allegory potent for foolishness or wisdom. It[Pg 276] was used to symbolize the mystery of the oneness of all mankind in God, and the organic co-ordination of all sorts and conditions of men with one another in the divine commonwealth on earth; it was also drawn out into every detail of banal anthropomorphic comparison. From John of Salisbury to Nicholas Cusanus, Occam and Dante, no point of fancied analogy between the parts and members of the body and the various functions of Church and State was left unexploited.[409]

Mankind then is one community; also an organism. But within the human organism abides the duality of soul and body; and the Community of Mankind on earth is constituted of two orders, the spiritual and temporal, Church and State.[410] There must be either co-ordination between State and Church, body and soul, or subordination of the temporal and material to the eternal and spiritual. To evoke an adjustment of what was felt to be an actually universal opposition, was the chief problem of mediaeval polity, and forms the warp and woof of conflicting theories. The Church asserted a full spiritual supremacy even in things temporal, and, to support the claim, brought sound arguments as well as foolish allegory—allegory pretending to be horror-stricken at the vision of an animal with two heads, a bicephalic monstrosity. But does not the Church comprise all mankind? Did not God found it? Is not Christ its head, and under Him his vicegerent Peter and all the popes? Then shall not the pope who commands the greater, which is the spiritual, much more command the less, the temporal? And all the argumentation of the two swords, delivered to Peter, comes into play. That there are two swords is but a propriety of administration. Secular rulers wield the secular sword at the pope’s command. They are instruments[Pg 277] of the Church. Fundamentally the State is an ecclesiastical institution, and the bounds of secular law are set by the law spiritual: the canon law overrides the laws of every State. True, in this division, the State also is ordained of God, but only as subordinate. And divinely ordained though it be, the origin of the State lies in sin; for sin alone made government and law needful for man.[411]

On the other hand, the partisans of the State upheld co-ordination as the true principle.[412] The two swords represent distinct powers, Sacerdotium and Imperium. The latter as well as the former is from God; and the two are co-ordinates, although of course the Church which wields the spiritual sword is the higher. This theory creates no bicephalic monster. God is the universal head. And even as man is body as well as soul, the human community is State as well as Church; and the State needs the emperor for its head, as the Church has the pope. The Roman Dominion, imperium mundi, was legitimate, and by divine appointment has passed over to the Roman-German emperor. Other views sustaining the scheme of co-ordination upheld a plurality of states, rather than one universal Imperium. Of course these opposing views of subordination or co-ordination of State and Church took on every shade of diversity.

As to both Church and State, mediaeval political theory was predominantly monarchical. Ideally this flowed from the thought of God as the true monarch of the universe. Practically it comported with mediaeval social conditions. Under Innocent III., if not under Gregory VII., the Church had become a monarchy well-nigh absolute.[413] The pope’s power continued plenary until the great schism and the age of councils evoked by it. For the secular state, the common voice likewise favoured monarchy. The unity of the social organism is best effected by the singleness of its head. Thomas Aquinas authoritatively reasons thus, and[Pg 278] Dante maintains that as the unifying principle is Will, the will of one man is the best means to realize it.[414] But monarchy is no absolute right existing for the ruler’s benefit, rather it is an office to be righteously exercised for the good of the community. The monarch’s power is limited, and if his command outrages law or right, it is a nullity; his subjects need not obey, and the principle applies, that it is better to obey God than man. Even when, as in the days of the Hohenstaufen, the civil jurists claimed for the emperor the plenitudo potestatis of a Roman Caesar, the opposite doctrine held strong, which gave him only a limited power, in its nature conditioned on its rightful exercise.

Moreover, rights of the community were not unrecognized, and indeed were supported by elaborate theories as the Middle Ages advanced to their climacteric. The thought of a contract between ruler and people frequently appears, and reference to the contract made at Hebron between David and the people of Israel (2 Sam. v. 3). The civil jurist also looked back to the principle of the jus gentium giving to every free people the right to choose a ruler; also to that famous text of the Digest, where, through the lex regia, the people were said to have conferred their powers upon the princeps.[415] With such thoughts of the people’s rights came theories of representation and of the monarch as the people’s representative; and Roman corporation law supplied the rules for mediaeval representative assemblies, lay and clerical.[416]

The old Germanic state was a conglomerate of positive law and specific custom, having no existence beyond the laws, which were its formative constituents. Such a conception did not satisfy mediaeval publicists, imbued with antique views of the State’s further aims and potency. Nor were all men satisfied with the State’s divinely ordered origin in human sinfulness. An ultimate ground for its existence was sought, commensurate with its broadest aims. Such was found, not in positive, but in natural law—again[Pg 279] an antique conception. That a veritable natural law existed, all men agreed; also that its source lay back of human conventions, somehow in the nature of God. All admitted its absolute supremacy, binding alike upon popes and secular monarchs, and rendering void all acts and positive laws contravening it. It must be the State’s ultimate constituent ground.

God was the source of natural law. Some argued that it proceeded from His will, as a command, others that its source was eternal Reason announcing her necessary and unalterable dictates; again its source was held to lie more definitely in the Reason that was identical with God the summa ratio in Deo existens, as Aquinas puts it. From that springs the Lex naturalis, ordained to rest on the participation of man, as a rational creature, in the moral order which he perceives by the light of natural reason. This lex naturalis (or jus naturale) is a true promulgated law, since God implants it for recognition in the minds of men.[417] Absolute unconditional supremacy was ascribed to it, and also to the jus divinum, which God revealed supernaturally for a supramundane end. A cognate supremacy was ascribed to the jus commune gentium, which was composed of rules of the jus naturale adapted to the conditions of fallen human nature.

Such law was above the State, to which, on the other hand, positive law was subject. Whenever the ruler was conceived as sovereign or absolute, he likewise was deemed above positive law, but bound by these higher laws. They were the source and sanction of the innate and indestructible rights of the individual, to property and liberty and life as they were formulated at a later period. It is evident how the recognition of such rights fell in with the Christian revelation of the absolute value of every individual in and for himself and his immortal life. On the other hand, certain rights of the State, or the community, were also indestructible and inalienable by virtue of the nature of their source in natural law.[418]

This abstract of political theory has been stated in[Pg 280] terms generalized to vagueness, and with no attempt to follow the details or trace the historical development. The purpose has been to give the general flavour of mediaeval thought concerning Church and State, and the Individual as a member of them both. One observes how the patristic and mediaeval Christian thought mingles with the antique; and one may assume the intellectual acumen applied by legist, canonist, and scholastic theologian to the discussion and formulation of these high arguments. The mediaeval genius for abstractions is evident, and the mediaeval faculty of linking them to the affairs of life; clear also is the baneful effect of mediaeval allegory. Even as men now-a-days are disposed to rest in the apparent reality of the tangible phenomenon, so the mediaeval man just as commonly sought for his reality in what the phenomenon might be conceived to symbolize. Therefore in the higher political controversies, even as in other interests of the human spirit, argument through allegory was accepted as legitimate, if not convincing; and a proper sequence of thought was deemed to lie from one symbolical meaning to another, with even a deeper validity than from one palpable fact to that which followed from it.



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The religious philosophy or theology of the Middle Ages is commonly called scholasticism, and its exponents are called the scholastics. The name applies most properly to the respectable academic thinkers. These, in the early Middle Ages, usually were monks living in monasteries, like St. Anselm, for instance, who was Abbot of Bec in Normandy before, to his sorrow, he was made Archbishop of Canterbury. In the thirteenth century, however, while these respected thinkers still were monks, or rather mendicant friars, they were also university professors. Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Dominicans, and their friend St. Bonaventura, who became the head of the Franciscan Order, all lectured at the University of Paris, the chief university of the Middle Ages in the domain of philosophy and theology. Moreover, as the scholastics were respectable and academic, so they were usually orthodox Churchmen, good Roman Catholics. The conduct or opinions of some of them, Abaelard for example, became suspect to the Church authorities; yet Abaelard, although his book had been condemned, kept within the Church’s pale, and died a monk of Cluny. There were plenty of obdurate heretics in the Middle Ages; but their bizarre ideas, sometimes coming down from Manichaean sources, were scarcely germane to the central lines of mediaeval thought.[419]

[Pg 284]One hears of scholastic philosophy and scholastic theology; and assuredly these mediaeval theologian-philosophers endeavoured to distinguish between the one and the other phase of the matters which occupied their minds. The distinction was intelligibly drawn and, in many treatises, doubtless affected the choice and ordering of topics. Whether it was consistently observed in the handling of those topics, is another question, which perhaps should be answered in the negative. At all events, to attempt to observe this distinction in considering the ultimate intellectual interests of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, might sap the matter of the human interest attaching to it, to wit, that interest and validity possessed by all serious effort to know—and to be saved. These were the motives of the scholastics, whether they used their reason, or clung to revelation, or did both, as they always did.

Mediaeval methods of thinking and topics of thought are no longer in vogue. For the time, men have turned from the discussion of universals and the common unity or separate individuality of mind, and are as little concerned with transubstantiation as with the old dispute over investitures. But the scholastics were men and so are we.[Pg 285] Our humanity is one with theirs. Men are still under the necessity of reflecting upon their own existence and the world without, and still feel the need to reach conclusions and the impulse to formulate consistently what seem to them vital propositions. Herein we are blood kin to Gerbert and Anselm, to Abaelard and Hugo of St. Victor, to Thomas Aquinas as well as Roger Bacon: and our highest nature is one with theirs in the intellectual fellowship of human endeavour to think out and present that which shall appease the mind. Because of this kinship with the scholastics, and the sympathy which we feel for the struggle which is the same in us and them, their intellectual endeavours, their achieved conclusions, although now appearing as but apt or necessitated phrases, may have for us the immortal interest of the eternal human.

Let us then approach mediaeval thought as man meets man, and seek in it for what may still be valid, or at least real to us, because agreeing with what we find within ourselves. Being men as well as scholars, we would win from its parchment-covered tomes those elements which if they do not represent everlasting verities, are at least symbols of the permanent necessities of the human mind. Whatever else there is in mediaeval thought, as touching us less nearly, may be considered by way of historical setting and explanation.

In different men the impulse to know bears different relationships to the rest of life. It sometimes seems self-impelled, and again palpably inspired by a motive beyond itself. In some form, however, it winds itself into every action of our mental faculties, and no province of life appears untouched by this craving of the mind. Nevertheless to know is not the whole matter; for with knowledge comes appetition or aversion, admiration or contempt, love or abhorrence; and other impulses—emotional, desiderative, loving—impel the human creature to realize its nature in states of heightened consciousness that are not palpable modes of knowing, though they may be replete with all the knowledge that the man has gained.

These ultimate cravings which we recognize in ourselves, inspired mediaeval thought. Its course, its progress, its[Pg 286] various phases, its contents and completed systems, all represent the operation of human faculty pressing to expression and realization under the accidental or “historical” conditions of the mediaeval period. We may be sure that many kinds of human craving and corresponding faculty realized themselves in mediaeval philosophy, theology, piety and mysticism—the last a word used provisionally, until we succeed in resolving it into terms of clearer significance. And we also note that in these provinces, realization is expression. Every faculty, every energy, in man seeks to function, to realize its power in act. The sheer body—if there be sheer body—acts bodily, operates, and so makes actual its powers. But those human energies which are informed with mind, realize themselves in ardent or rational thought, or in uttered words, or in products of the artfully devising hand. All this clearly is expression, and corresponds, if it is not one and the same, with the passing of energy from potency to the actuality which is its end and consummation. Thus love, seeking its end, thereby seeks expression, through which it is enhanced, and in which it is realized. Likewise, impelled by the desire to know, the faculties of cognition and reason realize themselves in expression; and in expression each part of rational knowledge is clarified, completed, rendered accordant with the data of observation and the laws or necessities of the mind.

Human faculties form a correlated whole; and this composite human nature seeks to act, to function. Thus the whole man strives to realize the fullest actuality of his being, and satisfy or express the whole of him, and not alone his reason, nor yet his emotions, or his appetites. This uttermost realization of human being—man’s summum bonum or summa necessitas—cannot unite the incompatible within its synthesis. It must be kept a consistent ideal, a possible whole. Here the demiurge is the discriminating and constructive intelligence, which builds together the permanent and valuable elements of being, and excludes whatever cannot coexist in concord with them. Yet the intelligence does not always set its own rational activities as man’s furthest goal of realization. It may place love above reason. And, of course, its discriminating judgment will[Pg 287] be affected by current knowledge and by dominant beliefs as to man and his destiny, the universe and God.

Manifestly whatever the thoughtful idealizing man in any period (and our attention may at once focus itself upon the Middle Ages) adjudges to belong to the final realization of his nature, will become an object of intellectual interest for him; and he will deem it a proper subject for study and meditation. The rational, spiritual, or even physical elements, which may enter and compose this, his summum bonum, represent those intellectual interests which may be termed ultimate, for the very reason, that they relate to what the thinker deems his beatitude. These ultimate intellectual interests possess an absolute sanction, for the lack of which whatever lies outside of them tends to adjudge itself vain.

The philosophy, theology, and the profoundly felt and reasoned piety, of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries made up that period’s ultimate intellectual interests. We are not concerned with other matters occupying its attention, save as they bore on man’s supreme beatitude, which was held to consist in his everlasting salvation and all that might constitute his bliss in that unending state. The elements of this blessedness were not deemed to lie altogether in rational cognition and its processes; for the conception of the soul’s beatitude was catholic; and while with some men the intellectual elements were dominant, with others salvation’s summit was attained along the paths of spiritual emotion.

Obviously, from the side of the emotions, there could come no large and lasting happiness, unless emotional desire and devotion were directed to that which might also satisfy the mind, or at all events, would not conflict with its judgment. Hence the emotional side of the ultimate mediaeval ideal was pietistic; because the mediaeval dogmatic faith regarded the emotional impulses between one human being and another as distracting, if not wicked. Such mortal impulses were so very difficult to harmonize with the eternal beatitude which consisted in the cognition and love of God. This principle was proclaimed by monks and theologians, or philosophers; it was even recognized (although not followed)[Pg 288] in the literature which glorified the love of man and woman, but in which the lover-knight so often ends a hermit, and the convent at last receives his sinful mistress. On the other hand, reason, with its practical and speculative knowledge, is sterile when unmixed with piety and love. This is the sum of Bonaventura’s fervid arguments, and is as clearly, if more quietly, recognized by Aquinas, with whom fides without caritas is informis, formless, very far indeed from its true actuality or realization.

Thus, for the full realization of man’s highest good in everlasting salvation, the two complementary phases of the human spirit had to act and function in concord. Together they must realize themselves in such catholic expression as should exclude only the froward or evil elements, non-elements rather, of man’s nature. Both represent ultimate mediaeval interests and desires; and perhaps deep down and very intimately, even inscrutably, they may be one, even as they clearly are complementary phases of the human soul. Yet with certain natures who perhaps fail to hold the balance between them, the two phases seem to draw apart, or, at least, to evince themselves in distinct expression, and indeed in all men they are usually distinguishable.

Generally speaking, the conception of man’s divinely mediated salvation, and of the elements of human being which might be carried on, and realized in a state of everlasting beatitude, prescribed the range of ultimate intellectual interests for the Middle Ages. The same had been despotically true of the patristic period. Augustine would know God and the soul; Ambrose expressed equally emphatic views upon the vanity of all knowledge that did not contribute to an understanding of the Christian Faith. This view was held with temperamental and barbarizing narrowness by Gregory the Great. It was admitted, as of course, throughout the Carolingian period, although humanistically-minded men played with the pagan literature. Nor was it seriously disputed in the eleventh or twelfth century, when men began to delight in dialectic, and some cared for pagan literature; nor yet in the thirteenth when an increasing number were asking many things from philosophy and natural knowledge, which had but distant bearing on the[Pg 289] soul’s salvation. One of these men was Roger Bacon, whose scientific studies were pursued with ceaseless energy. But he could also state emphatically the principle of the worthlessness of whatever does not help men to understand the divine truths by which they are saved. In Bacon’s time, the love of knowledge was enlarging its compass, while, really or nominally as the individual case might be, the criterion of relevancy to the Faith still obtained, and set the topics with which men should occupy themselves. All matters of philosophy or natural science had to relate themselves to the summum bonum of salvation in order to possess ultimate human interest. Therefore, if philosophy was to preserve the strongest reason for its existence, it had to remain the handmaid of theology. Still, to be sure, the conception of man’s beatitude would become more comprehensive with the expansion and variegation of the desire for knowledge.

As the summum bonum of salvation prescribed the topics of ultimate intellectual interest for the Middle Ages, so the stress which it laid upon one topic rather than another tended to direct their ordering or classification, as well as the proportion of attention devoted to each one. Likewise the form or method of presentation was controlled by the authority of the Scriptural statement of the way and means of salvation, and the well-nigh equally authoritative interpretation of the same by the beatified Fathers. Thus the nature of the summum bonum and the character of its Scriptural statement and patristic exposition suggested the arrangement of topics, and set the method of their treatment in those works of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries which afford the most important presentations of the ultimate intellectual interests of that time. Obvious examples will be Abaelard’s Sic et non and his Theologia, Hugo of St. Victor’s De sacramentis, the Lombard’s Books of Sentences, and the Summa theologiae of Thomas Aquinas.

It will be seen in the next chapter that the arrangement of topics in these comprehensive treatises differed from what would have been evolved through the requirements of a systematic presentation of human knowledge. Aquinas sets forth the reasons why one mode of treatment is suitable to philosophy and another to sacred science, and why the[Pg 290] latter may omit matters proper for the former, or treat them from another point of view. The supremacy of sacred science is incidentally shown by the argument. In his Contra Gentiles[420] chapter four, book second, bears the title: “Quod aliter considerat de creaturis Philosophus et aliter Theologus” (“That the philosopher views the creation in one way and the theologian in another”). In the text he says:

“The science (doctrina) of Christian faith considers creatures so far as there may be in them some likeness of God, and so far as error regarding them might lead to error in things divine.... Human philosophy considers them after their own kind, and its parts are so devised as to correspond with the different classes (genera) of things; but the faith of Christ considers them, not after their own kind, as for example, fire as fire, but as representing the divine altitude.... The philosopher considers what belongs to them according to their own nature; the believer (fidelis) regards in creatures only what pertains to them in their relationship to God, as that they are created by Him and subject to Him. Wherefore the science of the Faith is not to be deemed incomplete, if it passes over many properties of things, as the shape of the heaven or the quality of motion.... It also follows that the two sciences do not proceed in the same order. With philosophy, which regards creatures in themselves, and from them draws on into a knowledge of God, the first consideration is in regard to the creatures and the last is as to God. But in the science of faith, which views creatures only in their relationship to God (in ordine ad Deum), the first consideration is of God, and next of the creatures.”

Obviously sacra doctrina, which is to say, theologia, proceeds differently from philosophia humana, and evidently it has to do with matters of ultimate importance, and therefore of ultimate intellectual interest. The passage quoted from the Contra Gentiles may be taken as introductory to the more elaborate statement at the beginning of his Summa theologiae, where Thomas sets forth the principles by which sacra doctrina is distinguished from the philosophicae disciplinae, to wit, the various sciences of human philosophy:

“It was necessary to human salvation that there should be a science (doctrina) according with divine revelation, besides the[Pg 291] philosophical disciplines which are pursued by human reason. Because man was formed (ordinatur) toward God as toward an end exceeding reason’s comprehension. That end should be known to men, who ought to regulate their intentions and actions toward an end. Wherefore it was necessary for salvation that man should know certain matters through revelation, which surpass human reason.”

Thomas now points out that, on account of many errors, it also was necessary for man to be instructed through divine revelation as to those saving truths concerning God which human reason was capable of investigating. He next proceeds to show that sacra doctrina is science.

“But there are two kinds of sciences. There are those which proceed from the principles known by the natural light of the mind, as arithmetic and geometry. There are others which proceed from principles known by the light of a superior science: as perspective proceeds from principles made known through geometry, and music from principles known through arithmetic. And sacra doctrina is science in this way, because it proceeds from principles known by the light of a superior science or knowledge which is the knowledge belonging to God and the beatified. Thus as music believes the principles delivered to it by arithmetic, so sacred doctrine believes the principles revealed to it from God.”

The question then is raised whether sacra doctrina is one science, or many. And Thomas answers, that it is one, by reason of the unity of its formal object. For it views everything discussed by it as divinely revealed; and all things which are subjects of revelation (revelabilia) have part in the formal conception of this science; and so are comprehended under sacra doctrina, as under one science. Nevertheless it extends to subjects belonging to various departments of knowledge so far as they are knowable through divine illumination. As some of these may be practical and some speculative, it follows that sacred science includes both the practical and the speculative, even as God with the same knowledge knows himself and also the things He makes.

“Yet this science is more speculative than practical, because on principle it treats of divine things rather than human actions, which it treats in so far as man by means of them is directed (ordinatur) to perfect cognition of God, wherein eternal beatitude consists. This science in its speculative as well as practical[Pg 292] functions transcends other sciences, speculative and practical. One speculative science is said to be worthier than another, by reason of its certitude, or the dignity of its matter. In both respects this science surpasses other speculative sciences, because the others have certitude from the natural light of human reason, which may err; but this has certitude from the light of the divine knowledge, which cannot be deceived; likewise by reason of the dignity of its matter, because primarily it relates to matters too high for reason, while other sciences consider only those which are subjected to reason. It is worthier than the practical sciences, which are ordained for an ulterior end; for so far as this science is practical, its end is eternal beatitude, unto which as an ulterior end all other ends of the practical sciences are ordained (ordinantur).

“Moreover although this science may accept something from the philosophical sciences, it requires them merely for the larger manifestation of the matters which it teaches. For it takes its principles, not from other sciences, but immediately from God through revelation. So it does not receive from them as from superiors, but uses them as servants. Even so, it uses them not because of any defect of its own, but because of the defectiveness of our intellect which is more easily conducted (manuducitur) by natural reason to the things above reason which this science teaches.”

Thomas now shows, with scholastic formalism, that God is the subjectum of this science; since all things in it are treated with reference to God (sub ratione Dei), either because they are God himself, or because they bear relationship (habent ordinem) to God as toward their cause and end (principium et finem). The final question is whether this science be argumentativa, using arguments and proofs; and Thomas thus sets forth his masterly solution:

“I reply, it should be said that as other sciences do not prove their first principles, but argue from them in order to prove other matters, so this science does not argue to prove its principles, which are articles of Faith, but proceeds from them to prove something else, as the Apostle, in 1 Corinthians xv., argues from the resurrection of Christ to prove the resurrection of us all. One should bear in mind that in the philosophic sciences the lower science neither proves its own first principles nor disputes with him who denies them, but leaves that to a higher science. But the science which is the highest among them, that is metaphysics, does dispute with him who denies its principles, if the adversary will concede anything; if he concede nothing[Pg 293] it cannot thus argue with him, but can only overthrow his arguments. Likewise sacra Scriptura (or doctrina or sacred science, theology), since it owns no higher science, disputes with him who denies its principles, by argument indeed, if the adversary will concede any of the matters which it accepts through revelation. Thus through Scriptural authorities we dispute against heretics, and adduce one article against those who deny another. But if the adversary will give credence to nothing which is divinely revealed, sacred science has no arguments by which to prove to him the articles of faith, but has only arguments to refute his reasonings against the Faith, should he adduce any. For since faith rests on infallible truth, its contrary cannot be demonstrated: manifestly the proofs which are brought against it are not proofs, but controvertible arguments.

“To argue from authority is most appropriate to this science; for its principles rest on revelation, and it is proper to credit the authority of those to whom the revelation was made. Nor does this derogate from the dignity of this science; for although proof from authority based on human reason may be weak, yet proof from authority based on divine revelation is most effective.

“Yet sacred science also makes use of human reason; not indeed to prove the Faith, because this would take away the merit of believing; but to make manifest other things which may be treated in this science. For since grace does not annul nature, but perfects it, natural reason should serve faith, even as the natural inclination conforms itself to love (caritas). Hence sacred science uses the philosophers also as authority, where they were able to know the truth through natural reason. It uses authorities of this kind as extraneous arguments having probability. But it uses the authorities of the canonical Scriptures arguing from its own premises and with certainty. And it uses the authorities of other doctors of the Church, as arguing upon its own ground, yet only with probability. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the Apostles and Prophets, who wrote the canonical books; and not upon the revelation, if there was any, made to other doctors.”[421]

Mediaeval thought was beset behind and before by the compulsion of its conditions. Its mighty antecedents lived in it, and wrought as moulding forces. Well we know them, two in number, the one, of course, the antique philosophy; the other, again of course, the dogmatic Christian Faith, itself shot through and through with antique metaphysics, in the terms of which it had been formulated. These two,[Pg 294] very dual and yet joined, antagonistic and again united, constituted the form-giving principles of mediaeval thinking. They were, speaking in scholastic phrase, the substantial as well as accidental forms of mediaeval theology, philosophy, and knowledge. Which means that they set the lines of mediaeval theology or philosophy, and caused the one and the other to be what it became, rather than something else; and also that they supplied the knowledge which mediaeval men laboured to acquire, and attempted to adjust their thinking to. Thus, through the twelfth, the thirteenth, and the fourteenth centuries, they remained the inworking formal causes of mediaeval thought; while, on the other hand, the moving and efficient causes (still speaking in scholastic-Aristotelian phrase) were the human impulses which those formal causes moulded, or indeed suggested, and the faculties which they trained.

The patristic system of dogma with the antique philosophy, set the forms of mediaeval expression, fixed the distinctive qualities of mediaeval thought, furnished its topics, and even necessitated its problems—in two ways: First, through the specific substance which passed over and filled the mediaeval productions; and secondly, simply by reason of the existence of such a vast authoritative body of antique and patristic opinion, knowledge, dogma, which the Middle Ages had to accept and master, and beyond which the substance of mediaeval thinking was hardly destined to advance.

The first way is obvious enough, inasmuch as patristic and antique matter palpably make the substance of mediaeval theology and philosophy. The second is less obvious, but equally important. This mass of dogma, knowledge, and opinion, existed finished and complete. Men imperfectly equipped to comprehend it were brought to it by the conviction that it was necessary to their salvation, and then gradually by the persuasion also that it offered the only means of intellectual progress. The struggle to master such a volume of knowledge issuing from a more creative past, gave rise to novel problems, or promoted old ones to a novel prominence. The problem of universals was taken directly from the antique dialectic. It played a monstrous rôle in[Pg 295] the twelfth century because it was in very essence a fundamental problem of cognition, of knowing, and so pressed upon men who were driven by the need to master continually unfolding continents of thought.[422] This is an instance of a problem transmitted from the past, but blown up to extraordinary importance by mediaeval intellectual conditions. So throughout the whole scholastic range, attitude and method alike are fixed by the fact that scholasticism was primarily an appropriation of transmitted propositions.

In considering the characteristics of mediaeval thought, it is well to bear in mind these diverse ways in which its antecedents made it what it was: through their substance transmitted to it; through the receptive attitude forced upon men by existing accumulations of authoritative doctrine, and the method entailed upon mediaeval thought by its scholastic rather than originative character. Also one will not omit to notice which elements came from the action of the patristic body of antecedents, rather than from the antique group, and vice versa.

Since the antique and patristic constituted well-nigh the whole substance of philosophy and theology in the Middle Ages, a separate consideration of what was thus transmitted would amount to a history of mediaeval thought from a somewhat unilluminating point of view. On the other hand, one may learn much as to the qualities of mediaeval thought from observing the attitudes of various men in successive centuries toward Greek philosophy and patristic theology. The Fathers had used the concepts of the former in the construction of their systems of acceptance of the Christian Faith. But the spirit of inquiry from which Greek philosophy had sprung, was very different from the spirit in which the Fathers used its concepts and arguments, in order to substantiate what they accepted on the authority of Scripture and tradition. It is true that Greek philosophy in the Neo-Platonism of Porphyry and Iamblicus was not far from the patristic attitude toward knowledge. But the spirit of these declining moods of Neo-Platonism was not the spirit which had carried the philosophy of the Greeks to its intellectual[Pg 296] culmination in Plato and Aristotle, and to its attainment of the ethically rational in Stoicism and the system of Epicurus.

Thus patristic thinking was essentially different in purpose and method from the philosophy which it forced to serve its uses; and the two differed by every difference of method, spirit, and intent which were destined to appear among the various kinds of mediaeval thinkers. But the difference between Greek philosopher and Church Father was deeper than any that ever could exist among mediaeval men. Some of the last might be conventionally orthodox and passionately pious, while others cared more distinctly for the fruits of knowledge. But even these could not be as Greek philosophers, because they were accustomed to rely on authority, and because they who drew their knowledge from an existing store would not have the independence and originality distinguishing the Greeks, who had created so much of that store from which they drew.[423] Moreover, while neither Plato’s inquiry for truth, nor Aristotle’s catholic search for knowledge, was isolated from its bearing on either the conduct or the event of life, nevertheless with them rational inquiry was a final motive representing in itself that which was most divinely human, and so the best for man.[424] But with the philosophers of the Middle Ages, it never was quite so. For the need of salvation had worked in men’s blood for generations. And salvation, man’s highest good, did not consist in humanly-attained knowledge or in virtue won by human strength; but was divinely mediated and had to be accepted upon authority. Hence, even in the great twelfth and thirteenth centuries, intellectual inquiry was never unlimbered from bands of deference, nor ever quite dispassionately rational or unaffected by the mortal need to attain a salvation which was bestowed or withheld by God according to His plan authoritatively declared.

Accordingly all mediaeval variances of thought show common similitudes: to wit, some consciousness of need of[Pg 297] super-rational and superhuman salvation; deference to some authority; and finally a pervasive scholasticism, since mediaeval thought was of necessity diligent, acceptant, reflective, rather than original. One will be impressed with the formal character of mediaeval thought. For being thus scholastic, it was occupied with devising forms through which to express, or re-express, the mass of knowledge proffered to it. Besides, formal logic was a prominent part of the transmitted contents of antique philosophy; and became a chief discipline for mediaeval students; because they accepted it along with all the rest, and found its training helpful for men burdened with such intellectual tasks as theirs.

Within the lines of these universal qualities wind the divergencies of mediaeval thought; and one will notice how they consist in leanings toward the ways of Greek philosophy, or a reliance more or less complete upon the contents and method of patristic theology. One common quality, of which we note the variations, is that of deference to the authority of the past. The mediaeval scholar could hardly read a classic poet without finding authoritative statements upon every topic brushed by the poet’s fancy, and of course the matter of more serious writings, history, logic, natural science, was implicitly accepted. If the pagan learning was thus regarded, how much more absolute was the deference to sacred doctrine. Here all was authority. Scripture was the primary source; next came the creed, and the dogmas established by councils; and then the expositions of the Fathers. Thus the meaning of the authoritative Scripture was pressed into authoritative dogma, and then authoritatively systematized. The process had been intellectual and rational, yet with the driven rationality of Church Fathers struggling to formulate and express the accepted import of the Faith delivered to the saints. Authority, faith, held the primacy, and in two senses, for not only was it supreme and final, but it was also prior in initiative efficiency. Tertullian’s certum est, quia impossibile est, was an extreme paradox. But Augustine’s credimus ut cognoscamus was fundamental, and remained unshaken. Anselm lays it at the basis of his arguments; with Bernard and many others it is credo first[Pg 298] of all, let the intelligere come as it may, and as it will according to the fulness of our faith. The same principle of faith’s efficient primacy is temperamentally as well as logically fundamental with Bonaventura.

Here then was a first general quality of mediaeval thought: deference to authority. Now for the variances. Scarcely diverging, save in emphasis, from Augustine and Bonaventura, are the greatest of the schoolmen, Albert and Thomas. They defer to authority and recognize the primacy of faith, and yet they will, with abundant use of reason, deliminate the respective provinces of grace and human knowledge, and distinguish the absolute authority of Scripture from the statements even of the saints, which may be weighed and criticized. In secular philosophy, these two will, when their faith admits, accept the views of the philosophers—Aristotle above all—yet using their own reason. They are profoundly interested in knowledge and metaphysical dialectic, but follow it with deferential tempers and believing Christian souls.

Outside the company of such, are men of more independent temper, whose attitude tends to weaken the principle of acceptance of authority in sacred doctrine. The first of these was Eriugena with his explicit statement that reason is greater than authority; yet we may assume that he was not intending to impugn Scripture. Centuries later another chief example is Abaelard, whose dialectic temper leads him to wish to prove everything by reason. Not that he stated, or would have admitted this; yet the extreme rationalizing tendency of the man is projected through such a passage as the following from his Historia calamitatum, where he alludes to the circumstances of the composition of his work upon the Trinity. He had become a monk in the monastery of St. Denis, but students were still thronging to hear him, to the wrath of some of his superiors.

“Then it came about that I was brought to expound the very foundation of our faith by applying the analogies of human reason, and was led to compose for my pupils a theological treatise on the divine Unity and Trinity. They were calling for human and philosophical arguments, and insisting upon something intelligible, rather than mere words, saying that there had been more than[Pg 299] enough of talk which the mind could not follow; that it was impossible to believe what was not understood in the first place; and that it was ridiculous for any one to set forth to others what neither he nor they could rationally conceive (intellectu capere).”

And Abaelard cites the verse from Matthew about the blind leaders of the blind, and goes on to tell of the success of his treatise, which pleased everybody, yet provoked the greater envy because of the difficulty of the questions which it elucidated; and at last envy blew up the condemnation of his book, at the Council of Soissons, in the year of grace 1121.[425]

Here one has the plain reversal. We must first understand in order to believe. Doubtless the demands of Abaelard’s students to have the principles of the Christian Faith explained, that they might be understood and accepted rationally, echoed the master’s imperative intellectual need. Not that Abaelard would breathe the faintest doubt of these verities; they were absolute and unquestionable. He accepted them upon authority just as implicitly (he might think) as St. Bernard. Herein he shows the mediaeval quality of deference. But he will understand with his mind the profoundest truths enunciated by authority; he will explain them rationally, that the mind may rationally comprehend them.

Men of an opposite cast of mind foresaw the outcome of this rationalization of dogma more surely than the subtle dialectician for whom this process was both peremptory and proper. And the Church acted with a true instinct in condemning Abaelard in spite of his protestations of belief, just as with a like true instinct Friar Bacon’s own Franciscan Order looked askance on one whose mind was suspiciously set upon observation and experiment—and cavilling at others. Celui-ci tuera cela! The ultra-scientific spirit is dangerous to faith—and Bacon’s asseverations that no knowledge was of value save as it helped the soul’s salvation, was doubtless regarded as a conventional insincerity. Yet Roger Bacon had his mediaeval deferences, as will appear.[426]

Neither one extreme view nor the other was to represent[Pg 300] the attitude of thoughtful and believing Christendom; not William of St. Thierry and St Bernard, nor yet (on these points) Abaelard and Friar Bacon should prevail; but the all-balancing and all-considering Aquinas. He will draw the lines between faith and reason, and bulwark them with arguments which shall seem to render unto reason the things of reason, and unto faith its due. Yet it is actually Roger Bacon who accuses Thomas of making his Theology out of dialectic and very human reasonings. It was true; and we are again reminded how variant views shaded into each other in the Middle Ages, and all within certain lines of similarity. Practically all mediaeval thinkers defer to authority—more or less; and all hold to some principle of faith, to the necessity of believing something, for the soul’s salvation. There is likewise some similarity in their attitudes toward intellectual interests. For all recognized their propriety, and gave credit to the human desire to know. Likewise all saw that salvation, the summum bonum for man, included more than intellection; and felt that it held some consummation of other human impulses; that it held love—the love of God along with the intellectual ardour of contemplation; and well-nigh all recognized also that the faith held mystery, not to be solved by reason. Thus all were rational—some more, some less; and all were devotional and believing, pietistic, ardent—some more, some less; according as the intellectual nature dominated over the emotional, or the emotions quelled the conscious exercise of reason, yet reached out and upward from what knowledge and reason had given as a base to spring from.

Thus the mediaeval spirit, variant within its lines of likeness; and of a piece with it was the field it worked in, which made its range and scope. Here as well, a saving knowledge of God and the soul was central and chief among all intellectual interests. None denied this. Augustine, the universal prototype of the mediaeval mind, had cried, “God and the soul, these will I know, and these are all.” But wide had been the scope of his knowledge of God and the soul; and in the centuries which hung upon his words, wide also was the range of knowledge subsumed under those capitals. How would one know God and the soul? Might one not[Pg 301] know God in all His universe, in the height and breadth thereof, and backwards and forwards through the reach of time? Might not one also know the soul in all its operations, all its queries and desires; would not it and they, and their activities, make up the complementary side of knowledge—complementary to the primal object, God, known in His eternity, in His temporal creation, in His everlasting governance? Wide or narrow might be the intellectual interests included within a knowledge of God and the soul. And while many men kept close to the centre and saving nexus of these potentially universal themes, others might become absorbed with data of the creature-world, or with the manifold actions of the mind of man, so as to forget to keep all duly ordered and connected with the central thought.

So the search for knowledge might roam afield. Likewise as to its motive; practically with many men it was, in itself, a joy and end; although they might continue to connect this end formally with the salvation of the soul. Roger Bacon of a surety was such a one. Another was Albertus Magnus. The laborious culling of twenty tomes of universal knowledge surely had the joy of knowing as the active motive. And Aquinas too; no one could be such an acquisitive and reasoning genius, without the love of knowledge in his soul. Yet Thomas never let this love point untrue to its goal of research and devotion, to wit, sacred doctrine, theology, the Christian Faith in its very widest compass, yet in its unity of saving purpose.

In Thomas Aquinas the certitude of faith, the sense of grace, the ardour of love, never quenched the conscious action of the reasoning and knowing mind; nor did reasoning quench devotion. A balance too, though perhaps with one scale higher than the other, was kept by Bonaventura, whose mind had reason’s faculty, but whose heart burned perpetually toward God. Another rationally ardent soul was Bonaventura’s intellectual forerunner, Hugo of St. Victor. In these men intellect did not outstrip the fervours of contemplation. But such catholic balance did not hold with Abaelard and Bacon, who lacked the pietistic temperament. With others, conversely, the strength of the pietistic and emotional nature overbore the intellect; the[Pg 302] mind was less exacting; and devotional ardour used reason solely for its purposes. The mightiest of these were Bernard and Francis. To the same key might chime the woman, St. Hildegard of Bingen. We narrow down from these to hectic souls content with a few thoughts which serve as a basis for the heart’s fervours.

The varying attitudes of mediaeval thinkers toward reason and authority, and even their different views upon the limits of the field of salutary knowledge, are exemplified in their methods, or rather in the variations of their common method. Here the factors were again authority and the intellect which considers the authority, and in terms of its own rational processes reacts upon the proposition under view. The intellect might simply accept authority; or, on the other hand, it might, through dialectic, seek a conclusion of its own. But midway between a mere acceptance of authority, and the endeavour of dialectic for a conclusion of its own, there is the reasoning process which perceives divergence among authorities, compares, discriminates, interprets, and at last acts as umpire. This was the combined and catholic scholastic method. It contained the two factors of its necessary duality; and its variations (besides the gradual perfecting of its form from one generation to another) consisted in the predominant employment of one factor or the other.

The beginning was in the Carolingian time, when Rabanus compiled his authorities from sources sacred and profane, scarcely discriminating except to maintain the pre-eminence of the sacred matter. His younger contemporary, Eriugena, was a translator of his own chief source, Pseudo-Dionysius, him of the Hierarchies, Celestial and Ecclesiastical. Yet he composed also a veritable book, De divisione naturae, in which he put his matter together organically and with argument. And while professing to hold to the authority of Scripture and the Fathers, he not only took upon himself to select from their statements, but propounded the proposition that the authority which is not confirmed by reason appears weak. Eriugena made his authorities yield him what his reason required. His argumentative method became an independent rehandling of[Pg 303] matter drawn from them. It was very different from the plodding excerpt-gathering of Rabanus.

We pass down the centuries to Anselm. Contemplative and religious, his reverence for authority was unimpaired by any conscious need to refashion its meaning. Though he possessed creative intellectual powers, they were incited and controlled by his deep piety. Hence his works were constructed of original and lofty arguments, but such as did not infringe upon either the efficient or the final priority of faith.

With Abaelard of many-sided fame the duality of method becomes explicit, and is, if one may say so, set by the ears. On the one hand, he advances in his constructive theological treatises toward a portentous application of reason to explain the contents of the Christian Faith; on the other, somewhat sardonically, he devises a scheme for the employment and presentation of authorities upon these sacred matters, a scheme so obviously apt that once made known it could not but be followed and perfected.

The divers works of a man are likely to bear some relation and resemblance to each other. Abaelard was a reasoner, more specifically speaking, a dialectician according to the ways of Aristotelian logic. And in categories of formal logic he sought to rationalize every matter apprehended by his mind. Swayed by the master-interest of the time, he turned to theology; and his own nature impelled him to apply a constructive dialectic to its systematic formulation. The result is exemplified in the extant portion of his Theologia (mis-called Introductio ad Theologiam), which was condemned by the Council of Sens in 1141, the year before the master’s death. The spirit of this work appears in the passage already quoted from the Historia calamitatum, referring to what was substantially an earlier form of the Theologia.[427] The Theologia argues for a free use of dialectic in expounding dogma, especially in order to refute those heretics who will not listen to authority, but demand reasons. Like Abaelard’s previous theological treatises, it is filled with[Pg 304] citations of authority, principally Augustine; and the reader feels the author’s hesitancy to reveal that dialectic is the architect. Nor, in fact, is the work an exclusively dialectic structure; yet it illustrates (if it does not always inculcate) the application of the arguments of human reason to the exposition and substantiation of the fundamental and most deeply hidden contents of the Christian Faith. Obviously Abaelard was not an initiator here. Augustine had devoted his life to fortifying the Faith with argument and explanation; Eriugena, with a far weaker realization of its contents, had employed a more distorting metaphysics in its presentation; and saintly Anselm had flown his veritable eagle flights of reason. But Abaelard’s more systematic work represents a further stage in the application of independent dialectic to dogma, and an innovating freedom in the citation of pagan philosophers to demonstrate its philosophic reasonableness. Nevertheless his statement that he had gathered these citations from writings of the Fathers, and not from the books of the philosophers (quorum pauca novi),[428] shows that he was only using what the Fathers had made use of before him, and also indicates the slightness of his independent knowledge of Greek philosophy.

On the other hand, Abaelard’s way of presenting authorities for and against a theological proposition was more distinctly original. He seems to have been the first purposefully to systematize the method of stating the problem, and then giving in order the authorities on one side and the other—sic et non; as he entitled his famous work. But the trail of his nature lay through this apparently innocent composition, the evident intent of which was to emphasize, if not exaggerate, the opposition among the patristic authorities, and without a counterbalancing attempt to show any substantial accord among them. This, of course, is not stated in the Prologue, which however, like everything that Abaelard wrote, discloses his fatal facility of putting his hand on the raw spot in the matter; which unfortunately is likely to be the vulnerable point also. In it he remarks on the difficulty of interpreting Scripture, upon the corruption of the text (a perilous subject), and the[Pg 305] introduction of apocryphal writings. There are discrepancies even in the sacred texts, and contradictions in the writings of the Fathers. With a profuse backing of authority he shows that the latter are not to be read cum credendi necessitate, but cum judicandi libertate. Assuredly, as to anything in the canonical Scriptures, “it is not permitted to say: ‘The Author of this book did not hold the truth’; but rather ‘the codex is false or the interpreter errs, or thou dost not understand.’ But in the works of the later ones (posteriorum, Abaelard’s inclusive designation of the Fathers), which are contained in books without number, if passages are deemed to depart from the truth, the reader is at liberty to approve or disapprove.”

This view was supported by Abaelard’s citations from the Fathers themselves; and yet, so abruptly made, it was not a pleasant statement for the ears of those to whom the writings of the holy Fathers were sacred. Nothing was sacred to the man who wrote this prologue—so it seemed to his pious contemporaries. And who among them could approve of the Prologue’s final utterance upon the method and purpose of the book?

“Wherefore we decided to collect the diverse statements of the holy Fathers, as they might occur to our memory, thus raising an issue from their apparent repugnancy, which might incite the teneros lectores to search out the truth of the matter, and render them the sharper for the investigation. For the first key to wisdom is called interrogation, diligent and unceasing.... By doubting we are led to inquiry; and from inquiry we perceive the truth.”

To use the discordant statements of the Fathers to sharpen the wits of the young! Was not that to uncover their shame? And the character of the work did not salve the Prologue’s sting. Abaelard selected and arranged his extracts from pagan as well as Christian writers, and prepared sardonic titles for the questions under which he ordered his material. Time and again these titles flaunt an opposition which the citations scarcely bear out. For example, title iv.: “Quod sit credendum in Deum solum, et contra”—certainly a flaming point; yet the excerpts display merely the verb credere, used in the palpably different senses[Pg 306] borne by the word “believe.” There is no real repugnancy among the citations. And again, in title lviii.: “Quod Adam salvatus sit, et contra”—there is no citation contra. And the longest chapter in the book (cxvii.) has this bristling title: “De sacramento altaris, quod sit essentialiter ipsa veritas carnis Christi et sanguinis, et contra.”

Because of such prickly traits the Sic et non did not itself come into common use. But the suggestions of its method once made, were of too obvious utility to be abandoned. First, among Abaelard’s own pupils the result appears in Books of Sentences, which, in the arrangement of their matter, followed the topical division not of the Sic et non, but of Abaelard’s Theologia, with its threefold division of Theology into Fides, Caritas, and Sacramentum.[429] But the arrangement of the Theologia was not made use of in the best and most famous of these compositions, Peter Lombard’s Sententiarum libri quatuor. This work employed the method (not the arrangement) of the Sic et non, and expounded the contents of Faith methodically, “Distinctio” after “Distinctio,” stating the proposition, citing the authorities bearing upon it, and ending with some conciliating or distinguishing statement of the true result. In canon law the same method was applied in Gratian’s Decretum, of which the proper name was Concordia discordantium canonum.

These Books of Sentences have sometimes been called Summae, inasmuch as their scope embraced the entire contents of the Faith. But the term Summa may properly be confined to those larger and still more encyclopaedic compositions in which this scholastic method reached its final development. The chief makers of these, the veritable Summae theologiae, were, in order of time, Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, and Thomas Aquinas. The Books of Sentences were books of sentences. The Summa proceeded by the same method, or rather issued from it, as its consummation and perfect logical form; thus the[Pg 307] scholastic method arrived at its highest constructive energy. In the Sentences one excerpted opinion was given and another possibly divergent, and at the end an adjustment was presented. This comparative formlessness attains in the Summa a serried syllogistic structure. Thomas, who finally perfects it, presents his connected and successive topics divided into quaestiones, which are subdivided into articuli, whose titles give the point to be discussed. He states first, and frequently in his own syllogistic terms, the successive negative arguments; and then the counter-proposition, which usually is a citation from Scripture or from Augustine. Then with clear logic he constructs the true positive conclusion in accordance with the authority which he has last adduced. He then refutes each of the adverse arguments in turn.

Thus the method of the Sentences is rendered dialectically organic; and with the perfecting of the form of quaestio and articulus, and the logical linking of successive topics, the whole composition, from a congeries, becomes a structure, organic likewise, a veritable Summa, and a Summa of a science which has unity and consistency. This science is sacra doctrina, theologia. Moreover, as compared with the Sentences, the contents of the Summa are enormously enlarged. For between the time of the Lombard and that of Thomas, there has come the whole of Aristotle, and what is more, the mastery of the whole of Aristotle, which Thomas incorporates in a complete and organic statement of the Christian scheme of salvation.[430]

[Pg 308-310]



[Pg 311]



I. Philosophic Classification of the Sciences; the Arrangement
of Vincent’s Encyclopaedia, of the Lombard’s Sentences, of
Aquinas’s Summa theologiae.
II. The Stages of Development: Grammar, Logic, Metalogics.



Having considered the spirit, the field, and the dual method, of mediaeval thought, there remain its classifications of topics. The problem of classification presented itself to Gerbert as one involved in the rational study of the ancient material.[431] But as scholasticism culminated in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the problem became one of arrangement and presentation of the mass of knowledge and argument which the Middle Ages had at length made their own, and were prepared to re-express. This ordering was influenced by a twofold principle of classification; for, as abundantly shown by Aquinas,[432] theology in which all is ordered with reference to God, will properly follow an arrangement of topics quite unsuitable to the natural or human sciences, which treat of things with respect to themselves. But the mediaeval practice was more confused than the theory; because the interest in human knowledge was apt to be touched by motives sounding in the need of divine salvation; and speculation could not free itself of the moving principles of Christian theology. On the other hand, an enormous quantity of human dialectic, and a prodigious mass of what strikes us as profane information, or[Pg 312] misinformation, was carried into the mediaeval Summa, and still more into those encyclopaedias, which attempted to include all knowledge, and still were influenced in their aim by a religious purpose.[433]

As the human sciences came from the pagan antique, the accepted classifications of them naturally were taken from Greek philosophy. They followed either the so-called Platonic division, into Physics, Ethics, and Logic,[434] or the Aristotelian division of philosophy into theoretical and practical. The former scheme, of which it is not certain that Plato was the author, passed on through the Stoic and Epicurean systems of philosophy, was recognized by the Church Fathers, and received Augustine’s approval. It was made known to the Middle Ages through Cassiodorus, Isidore, Alcuin, Rabanus, Eriugena and others.

Nevertheless the Aristotelian division of philosophy into theoretical and practical was destined to prevail. It was introduced to the western Middle Ages through Boëthius’s Commentary on Porphyry’s Isagoge,[435] and adopted by Gerbert; later it passed over through translations of Arabic writings. It was accepted by Hugo of St. Victor, by Albertus Magnus and by Thomas, to mention only the greatest names; and was set forth in detail with explanation and comment in a number of treatises, such as Gundissalinus’s De divisione philosophiae, and Hugo of St. Victor’s Eruditio didascalica,[436] which were formal and schematic introductions to the study of philosophy and its various branches.

The usual subdivisions of these two general parts of philosophy were as follows. Theoretica (or Theorica) was divided into (1) Physics, or scientia naturalis, (2) Mathematics, and (3) Metaphysics or Theology, or divina scientia, as it might be called. Physics and Mathematics were again divided into more special sciences. Practica was divided[Pg 313] commonly into Ethics, Economics, Politics, or into Ethics and Artes mechanicae. There was a difference of opinion as to what to do with Logic. It had, to be sure, its position in the current Trivium, along with grammar and rhetoric. But this was merely current, and might not approve itself on deeper reflection. Gundissalinus speaks of three propaedeutic sciences, the scientiae eloquentiae, grammar, poetics, and rhetoric, and then puts Logic after them as a scientia media between these primary educational matters and philosophy, i.e. the whole range of knowledge, theoretical and practical. Again, over against philosophia realis, which contains both the theoretica (or speculativa) and the practica, Thomas Aquinas sets the philosophia rationalis, or logic; and Richard Kilwardby opposes logica, the scientia rationalis, to practica, in his division.[437]

The last-named philosopher was the pupil and then the hostile critic of Aquinas, and also became Archbishop of Canterbury. He was the author of a careful and elaborate classification of the parts of philosophy, entitled De ortu et divisione philosophiae.[438] In it, following the broad distinction between res divinae and res humanae, Kilwardby divides philosophy into speculativa and practica. Speculativa is divided into naturalis (physics), mathematica, and divina (metaphysics). He does not divide the first and third of these; but he divides mathematica into those sciences which treat of quantity in continuity and separation respectively (quantitas continua and quantitas discreta). The former embrace geometry, astronomy and astrology, and perspective; the latter, music and arithmetic. Practica, which is concerned with res humanae, is divided into activa and sermocinalis: because res humanae consist either of operationes or locutiones. The activa embraces Ethics and mechanics; the scientia sermocinalis embraces grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Such are Kilwardby’s bare captions; his treatise lengthily treats of the interrelations of these various branches of knowledge.

An idea of the scholastic discussion of the classification of sciences may be had by following Albertus Magnus’s[Pg 314] ponderous approach to a consideration of logic: whether it be a science, and, if so, what place should be allotted it. We draw from the opening of his liber on the Predicables,[439] that is to say, his exposition of Porphyry’s Introduction. Albert will consider “what kind of a science (qualis scientia) logic may be, and whether it is any part of philosophy; what need there is of it, and what may be its use; then of what it treats, and what are its divisions.” The ancients seem to have disagreed, some saying that logic is no science, since it is rather a modus (mode, manner or method) of every science or branch of knowledge. But these, continues Albertus, have not reflected that although there are many sciences, and each has its special modus, yet there is one modus common to all sciences, pertaining to that which is common to them all: the principle, to wit, that through reason’s inquiry, from what is known one arrives at knowledge of the unknown. This mode or method common to every science may be considered in itself, and so may be the subject of a special science. After further balancing of the reasons and authorities pro and con, Albertus concludes:

“It is therefore clear that logic is a special science just as in ironworking there is the special art of making a hammer, yet its use pertains to everything made by the ironworker’s craft. So this process of discovering the unknown through the known, is something special, and may be studied as a special art and science; yet the use of it pertains to all sciences.”

He next considers whether logic is a part of philosophy. Some say no, since there are (as they say) only three divisions of philosophy, physics, mathematics, and metaphysics; others say that logic is a modus of philosophy and not one of its divisions. But, on the contrary, it is shown by others that this view of philosophy omits the practical side, for philosophy’s scope comprehends the truth of everything which man may understand, including the truth of that which is in ourselves, and strives to comprehend both truth[Pg 315] and the process of advancing from the known to a knowledge of the unknown. These point out that

“... the Peripatetics divided philosophy first into three parts, to wit, into physicam generaliter dictam, and ethicam generaliter dictam and rationalem likewise taken broadly. I call physica generaliter dicta that which embraces scientia naturalis, disciplinalis, and divina (i.e. physics in a narrower sense, mathematics which is called scientia disciplinalis, and metaphysics which is scientia divina). And I call ethica, that which, broadly taken, contains the scientia monastica, oeconomica and civilis. And I call that the scientia rationalis, broadly taken, which includes every mode of proceeding from the known to the unknown. From which it is evident that logic is a part of philosophy.”

And finally it may be shown that

“if anything is within the scope of philosophy it must be that without which philosophy cannot reach any knowledge. He who is ignorant of logic can acquire no perfect cognition of the unknown, because he is ignorant of the way in which he should proceed from the known to the unknown.”

From these latter arguments, approved by him and in part stated as his own, Albertus advances to a classification of the parts of logic, which he makes to include rhetoric, poetics, and dialectic, and to be demonstrative, sophistical or disputatious, according to the use to which logic (broadly taken) is applied and the manner in which it may in each case proceed, in advancing from the known to some farther ascertainment or demonstration.[440] Soon after this, in discussing the subject of this science, Albertus points out how logic differs from rhetoric and poetics, although with them it may treat of sermo, or speech, and be called a scientia sermonalis; for, unlike them, it treats of sermo merely as a means of drawing conclusions, and not in and for itself.

From the purely philosophical division of the sciences we pass to the hybrid arrangement adopted by Vincent of Beauvais, who died in 1264. This man was a prodigious devourer of books, and for a sufficient pabulum, St. Louis set before him his collection of twelve hundred volumes.[Pg 316] Thereupon Vincent compiled the most famous of mediaeval encyclopaedias, employing in that labour enormous diligence and a number of assistants. His ponderous Speculum majus is drawn from the most serviceable sources, including the works of Albertus, his contemporary, and great scholastics like Hugo of St. Victor, who were no more. It consisted of the Speculum naturale, doctrinale, and historiale; and a fourth, the Speculum morale, was added by a later hand.[441] Turning its leaves, and reading snatches here and there, especially from its Prologues, we shall gain a sufficient illustration of the arrangement of topics followed by this writer, whose faculties seem to drown in his shoreless undertaking.[442]

In his turgid generalis prologus to the Speculum naturale, Vincent presents his motives for collecting in one volume

“... certain flowers according to my modicum of faculty, gathered from every one I have been able to read, whether of our Catholic Doctors or the Gentile philosophers and poets. Especially have I drawn from them what seemed to pertain either to the building up of our dogma, or to moral instruction, or to the incitement of charity’s devotion, or to the mystic exposition of divine Scripture, or to the manifest or symbolical explanation of its truth. Thus by one grand opus I would appease my studiousness, and perchance, by my labours, profit those who, like me, try to read as many books as possible, and cull their flowers. Indeed of making many books there is no end, and neither is the eye of the curious reader satisfied, nor the ear of the auditor.”

He then refers to the evils of false copying and the ascription of extracts to the wrong author. And it seems to him that Church History has been rather neglected, while men have been intent on expounding knotty problems.[Pg 317] And now considering how to proceed and group his various matters, Vincent could find no better method than the one he has chosen, “to wit, that after the order of Holy Scripture, I should treat first of the Creator, next of the creation, then of man’s fall and reparation, and then of events (rebus gestis) chronologically.” He proposes to give a summary of titles at the end of the work. Sometimes he may state as his own, things he has had from his teachers or from very well-known books; and he admits that he did not have time to collate the gesta martyrum, and so some of the abstracts which he gives of these are not by his own hand, but by the hand of scribes (notariorum).

Vincent proposes to call the whole work Speculum majus, a Speculum indeed, or an Imago mundi, “containing in brief whatever, from unnumbered books, I have been able to gather, worthy of consideration, admiration, or imitation as to things which have been made or done or said in the visible or invisible world from the beginning until the end, and even of things to come.” He briefly adverts to the utility of his work, and then gives his motive for including history. This he thinks will help us to understand the story of Christ; and from a perusal of the wars which took place “before the advent of our pacific King, the reader will perceive with what zeal we should fight against our spiritual foes, for our salvation and the eternal glory promised us.” From the great slaughter of men in many wars, may be realized also the severity of God against the wicked, who are slain like sheep, and perish body and soul.[443]

As to nature, Vincent says:

“Moreover I have diligently described the nature of things, which, I think, no one will deem useless, who, in the light of grace, has read of the power, wisdom and goodness of God, creator, ruler and preserver, in that same book of the Creation appointed for us to read.”

Moreover, to know about things is useful for preachers and theologians, as Augustine says. But Vincent is conscious of another motive also:

[Pg 318]“Verily how great is even the humblest beauty of this world, and how pleasing to the eye of reason diligently considering not only the modes and numbers and orders of things, so decorously appointed throughout the universe, but also the revolving ages which are ceaselessly uncoiled through abatements and successions, and are marked by the death of what is born. I confess, sinner as I am, with mind befouled in flesh, that I am moved with spiritual sweetness toward the creator and ruler of this world, and honour Him with greater veneration, when I behold at once the magnitude, and beauty and permanence of His creation. For the mind, lifting itself from the dunghill of its affections, and rising, as it is able, into the light of speculation, sees as from a height the greatness of the universe containing in itself infinite places filled with the divers orders of creatures.”

Here Vincent feels it well to apologize for the limitlessness of his matter, being only an excerptor, and not really knowing even a single science; and he refers to the example of Isidore’s Etymologiae. He proceeds to enumerate the various sources upon which he relies, and then to summarize the headings of his work; which in brief are as follows:

The Creator.

The empyrean heaven and the nature of angels; the state of the good, and the ruin of the proud, angels.

The formless material and the making of the world, and the nature and properties of each created being, according to the order of the Works of the Six Days.

The state of the first man.

The nature and energies of the soul, and the senses and parts of the human body.

God’s rest and way of working.

The state of the first man and the felicity of Paradise.

Man’s fall and punishment.


The reparation of the Fall.

The properties of faith and other virtues in order, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the beatitudes.

The number and matter of all the sciences.

Chronological history of events in the world, and memorable sayings, from the beginning to our time, with a consideration of the state of souls separated from their bodies, of the times to come, of Antichrist, the end of the World, the resurrection of the dead, the glorification of the saints and the punishments of the wicked.

One may stand aghast at the programme. Yet[Pg 319] practically all of it would go into a Summa theologiae, excepting the human history, and the matter of what we should call the arts and sciences! A programme like this might be handled summarily, according to the broad captions under which it is stated; or it might be carried out in such detail as to include all available information, or opinion, touching every part of every topic included under these universal heads. The latter is Vincent’s way. Practically he tries to include all knowledge upon everything. The first of his tomes (the Speculum naturale) is to be devoted to a full description of the forms and species of created beings, which make up the visible world. Yet it includes much relating to beings commonly invisible; for Vincent begins with a treatment of the angels. He then passes to a consideration of the seven heavens; and then to the physical phenomena of nature; then on to every known species of plant, the cultivation of trees and vines, and the making of wine; then to the celestial bodies, and after this to living things, birds, fishes, savage beasts, reptiles, the anatomy of animals,—and at last comes to man. He discusses him body and soul, his psychology, and the phenomena of sleep and waking; then human anatomy—nor can he keep from considerations touching the whole creation; then human generation, and a description of the countries and regions of the earth, with a brief compendium of history until the time of Antichrist and the Last Judgment. Of course he is utterly uncritical, even the pseudo-Turpin’s fictions as to Charlemagne serving him for authority.

Vincent’s Prologue to his second tome, the Speculum doctrinale, briefly mentions the topics of the tota naturalis historia, contained in his first giant tome. In that he had brought his matter down to God’s creation of humana natura, omnium rerum finis ac summa—and its spoliation (destitutio) through sin. Humana natura as constituted by God, was a universitas of all nature or created being, corporeal and spiritual. Now

“in this second part, in like fashion we propose to treat of the plenary restitution of that destitute nature.... And since that restitution, or restoration, is effected and perfected by doctrina (imparted knowledge, science), this part not improperly is called[Pg 320] the Speculum doctrinale. For of a surety everything pertaining to recovering or defending man’s spiritual or temporal welfare (salutem) is embraced under doctrina. In this book, the sciences (doctrinae) and arts are treated thus: First concerning all of them in general, to wit, concerning their invention, origin, and species; and concerning the method of acquiring them. Then concerning the singular arts and sciences in particular. And here first concerning those of the Trivium, which are devoted to language (grammar, rhetoric, logic); for without these, the others cannot be learned or communicated. Next concerning the practical ones (practica), because through them, the eyes of the mind being clarified, one ascends to the speculative (theorica). Then also concerning the mechanical ones; since, as they consist in making (operatio), they are joined by affinity to the practica. Finally concerning the speculative sciences (theorica), because the end and aim (finis) of all the rest is placed by the wise in them. And since (as Jerome says) one cannot know the power (vis) of the antidote unless the power of the poison first is understood, therefore to the reparatio doctrinalis of the human race, the subject of the book, something is prefixed as a brief epilogue from the former book, concerning the fall and misery of man, in which he still labours, as the penalty for his sin, in lamentable exile.”

So Vincent begins with the fall and misery of man; the peccatum and the supplicium. Then he proceeds to discuss the goods (bona) which God bestows, like the mental powers, by which man may learn wisdom, and how to strive against error and vice, and be overcome solely by the desire of the highest and immutable good. He speaks also of the corporeal goods bestowed on man, and the beauty and utility of visible things; and then of the principal evils;—ignorance which corrupts the divine image in man, concupiscence which destroys the divine similitude, sickness which destroys his original bodily immortality. “And the remedies are three by which these three evils may be repelled, and the three goods restored, to wit, Wisdom, Virtue, and Need.”

Here we touch the gist of the ordering of topics in the Speculum doctrinale, which treats of all the arts and sciences:

“For the obtaining of these three remedies every art and every disciplina was invented. In order to gain Wisdom, Theorica was devised; and Practica for the sake of virtue; and for Need’s sake, Mechanica. Theorica driving out ignorance, illuminates Wisdom;[Pg 321] Practica shutting out vice, strengthens Virtue; Mechanica providing against penury, tempers the infirmities of the present life. Theorica, in all that is and that is not, chooses to investigate the true. Practica determines the correct way of living and the form of discipline, according to the institution of the virtues. Mechanica occupied with fleeting things, strives to provide for the needs of the body. For the end and aim of all human actions and studies, which reason regulates, ought to look either to the reparation of the integrity of our nature or to alleviating the needs to which life is subjected. The integrity of our nature is repaired by Wisdom, to which Theorica relates, and by Virtue, which Practica cultivates. Need is alleviated by the administration of temporalities, to which Mechanica attends. Last found of all is Logic, source of eloquence, through which the wise who understand the aforesaid principal sciences and disciplines, may discourse upon them more correctly, truly and elegantly; more correctly, through Grammar; more truly through Dialectic; more elegantly through Rhetoric.”[444]

Thus the entire round of arts and sciences is connected with man’s corporeal and spiritual welfare, and is made to bear directly or indirectly on his salvation. All constitutes doctrina, and by doctrina man is saved. This is the reason for including the arts and sciences in one tome, rightly called the Speculum doctrinale. We need not follow the detail, but may view as from afar the long course ploughed by Vincent through his matter. He first sketches the history of antique philosophy, and then turns to books and language, and presents a glossary of Latin synonyms. Book II. treats of Grammar, Book III. of Logic, Book IV. of Practica scientia or Ethica, first giving pagan ethics and then passing on to the virtues of the monastic life. Book V. is a continuation of this subject. Book VI. concerns the Scientia oeconomica, treating of domestic economy, then of agriculture. Books VII. and VIII. take up Politica, and, having discussed political institutions, proceed to a treatment of law—the law of persons, things, and actions, according to the canon and the civil law. Books IX. and X. consider Crimes—simony, heresy, perjury, sacrilege, homicide, rape, adultery, robbery, usury. Book XI. is more cheerful, De arte mechanica, and tells of building, the military art, navigation, alchemy, and metals. Book XII. is Medicine, and Books XIII. and XIV. discuss Physics, in connection with the healing art. Book[Pg 322] XV. is Natural Philosophy—animals and plants. Book XVI., De mathematica, treats of arithmetic, music, geometry, astronomy, and metaphysics cursorily. Book XVII. likewise thins out in a somewhat slight discussion of Theology, which was to form the topic of the tome that Vincent did not write.

But Vincent did complete another tome, the Speculum historiale. It is a loosely chronological compilation of tradition, myth, and history, with discursions upon the literary works of the characters coming under review. It would be tedious to follow its excerpted presentation of the profane and sacred matter.

We may leave Vincent, with the obvious reflection that his work is a conglomerate, both in arrangement and contents. It has the pious aim of contributing to man’s salvation, and yet is an attempted universal encyclopaedia of human knowledge, much of which is plainly secular and mundane. The monstrous scope and dual purpose of the work prevented any unity in method and arrangement. More single in aim, and better arranged in consequence, are the Sentences of Peter Lombard and the Summa theologiae of Aquinas. For although their scope, at least the scope of the Summa, is wide, all is ordered with respect to the true aim of sacra doctrina, just as Thomas explained in the passage which we have already given.

The alleged principle of the Lombard’s division strikes one as curious; yet he got it from Augustine: Signum and res—the symbol and the thing: verily an age-long play of spiritual tendency lay back of these contrasted concepts. Christian doctrina related, perhaps chiefly, to the significance of signa, signs, symbols, allegories, mysteries, sacraments. It was not so strange that the Lombard made this antithesis the ground of his arrangement. Quite as of course he begins by saying it is clear to any one who considers, with God’s grace, that the “contents of the Old and New Law are occupied either with res or signa. For as the eminent doctor Augustine says in his Doctrina Christiana, all teaching is of things or signs; but things also are learned through signs. Properly those are called res which are not employed in order to signify something; while signa are those whose[Pg 323] use is to signify.” Then the Lombard separates the sacraments from other signa, because they not only signify, but also confer saving aid; and he points out that evidently a signum is also some sort of a thing; but not everything is a signum. He will treat first of res and then of signa.

As to res, one must bear in mind, as Augustine says, that some things are to be enjoyed (fruendum), as from love we cleave to them for their own sake; and others are to be used (utendum) as a means; and still others to be both enjoyed and used.

“Those which are to be enjoyed make us blessed (beatos); those which are to be used, aid us striving for blessedness.... We ourselves are the things which are both to be enjoyed and used, and also the angels and the saints.... The things which are to be enjoyed are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and so the Trinity is summa res.”

So the Lombard’s first two Books consider res in the descending order of their excellence; the third considers the Incarnation, which, if not itself a sacrament, and the chief and sum of all sacraments, is the source of those of the New Law, considered in the fourth Book. The scheme is single and orderly; the difficulty will be in actually arranging the various topics within it. Endeavouring to do so, the Lombard in Book I. puts together the doctrine of the Trinity, the three Persons composing it, and their attributes and qualities. Book II. considers in order, the Angels, and very briefly, the work of the Six Days down to the creation of man; then the Christian doctrina as to man is presented: his creation and its reasons; the creation of his anima; the creation of woman; the condition of man and woman before the Fall; their sin; next free-will and grace. Book III. treats of the Incarnation, in all the aspects in which it may be known, and of the nature of Christ, His saving merit, and the grace which was in Him; also of the virtues of faith, hope, and charity, the seven gifts of the Spirit, and the existence of them all in Christ. Book IV. considers the Sacraments of the New Law: Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, extreme unction, ordination to holy orders, marriage. It concludes with setting forth the Resurrection and the Last Judgment.

[Pg 324]The first chapters of Genesis were the ultimate source of the Lombard’s actual arrangement. And the Summa will follow the same order of treatment. One may perceive how naturally the adoption of this order came to Christian theologians by glancing over Augustine’s De Genesi ad litteram.[445] This Commentary was partially constructive, and not simply exegetical; and afforded a cadre, or frame, of topical ordering, which could readily be filled out with the contents of the Sentences or even of the Summa: God, in His unity and trinity, the Creation, man especially, his fall, the Incarnation as the saving means of his restoration, and then the Sacraments, and the final Judgment unto heaven and hell. One may say that this was the natural and proper order of presenting the contents of the Christian sacra doctrina.

So the great Summa theologiae of Thomas Aquinas adopts the same order which the Lombard had followed. The Pars prima begins with defining sacra doctrina.[446] It then proceeds to consider God—whether He exists; then treats of His simplicitas and perfectio; next of His attributes; His bonitas, infinitas, immutabilitas, aeternitas, unitas; then of our knowledge of Him; then of His knowledge, and therein of truth and falsity; thereupon are considered the divine will, love, justice, and pity; the divine providence and predestination; the divine power and beatitude.

All this pertains to the unitas of the divine essence; and now Thomas passes on to the Trinitas personarum, or the more distinctive portions of Christian theology. He treats of the processio and relationes of the divinae Personae, and then of themselves—Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and then of their essential relationship and properties. Next he discusses the missio of the divine Persons, and the relations between God and His Creation. First comes the consideration of the principle of creation, the processio creaturarum a Deo, and of the nature of created things, with some discussion of evil, whether it be a thing.

Among created beings, Thomas treats first of angels, and at great length; then of the physical creation, in its order—the work of the six days, but with no great detail. Then[Pg 325] man, created of spiritual and corporeal substance—his complex nature is to be analysed and fathomed to its depths. Thomas discusses the union of the anima ad corpus; then the powers of the anima, in generali and in speciali—the intellectual faculties, the appetites, the will and its freedom of choice; how the anima knows—the full Aristotelian theory of cognition is given. Next, more specifically as to the creation of the soul and body of the first man, and the nature of the image and similitude of God within him; then as to man’s condition and faculties while in a state of innocence; also as to Paradise.

This closes the treatment of the creatio et distinctio rerum; and Thomas passes to their gubernatio, and the problem of how God conserves and moves the corporeal and spiritual; then concerning the action of one creature on another, and how the angels are ranged in hierarchies, and although purely spiritual beings, minister to men and guard them; then concerning the action of corporeal things, concerning fate, and the action of men upon men.

Here ends Pars prima. The first section of the second part (Prima secundae) begins. In a short Prologue Thomas says:

“Because man is made in the image of God, that is, free in his thought and will, and able to act through himself (per se potestativum), after what has been said concerning the Exemplar, God, and everything proceeding from the divine power according to His will, it remains for us to consider His image, to wit, man, in so far as he is the source or cause (principium) of his own works, having free-will and power over them.”

Hereupon Thomas takes up in order: the ultimate end of man; the nature of man’s beatitude, and wherein it consists, and how it may be attained; then voluntary and involuntary acts, and the nature and action of will; then fruition, intention, election, deliberation, consent, and actions good and bad, flowing from the will; then the passions; concupiscence and pleasure, sadness, hope and despair, fear, anger; next habits (habitus) and the virtues, intellectual, cardinal, theological; the gifts of the Spirit, and the beatitudes; the vices, and sin, and penalty. Thereupon it becomes proper to consider the external causes (principia)[Pg 326] of acts: “The external cause (principium) moving toward good is God; who instructs us through law, and aids us through grace. Therefore we must speak, first of law, then of grace.” So Thomas discusses: the essentia of law, and the different kinds of law—lex aeterna, lex naturalis, lex humana—their effect and validity; then the precepts of the Old Law (of the Old Testament); then as to the law of the Gospel and the need of grace; and lastly, concerning grace and human merit.

The Secunda secundae (the second division of the second part) opens with a Prologue, in which the author says that, having considered generally the virtues and vices, and other things pertaining to the matter of ethics, it is needful to consider these same matters more particularly, each in turn; “for general moral statements (sermones morales universales) are less useful, inasmuch as actions are always in particularibus.” A more special statement of moral rules may proceed in two ways: the one from the side of the moral material, discussing this or that virtue or vice; the other considers what applies to special orders (speciales status) of men, for instance prelates and the lower clergy, or men devoted to the active or contemplative religious life. “We shall, therefore, consider specially, first what applies to all conditions of men, and then what applies to certain orders (determinatos status).” Thomas adds that it will be best to consider in each case the virtue and corresponding gift, and the opposing vice, together; also that “virtues are reducible to seven, the three theological,[447] and the four cardinal virtues. Of the intellectual virtues, one is Prudence, which is numbered with the cardinal virtues; but ars does not pertain to morals, which relate to what is to be done, while ars is the correct faculty of making things (recta ratio factibilium).[448] The other three intellectual virtues, sapientia, intellectus, et scientia, bear the names of certain gifts of the Holy Spirit, and are[Pg 327] considered with them. Moral virtues are all reducible to the cardinal virtues; and therefore, in considering each cardinal virtue, all the virtues related to it are considered, and the opposite vices.”

This classification of the virtues seems anything but clear. And perhaps the weakest feature of the Summa is this scarcely successful ordering, or combination, of the Aristotelian virtues with those more germane to the Christian scheme. However this may be, the author of the Summa proceeds to consider in order: fides, and the gifts (dona) of intellectus and scientia which correspond to the virtue faith; next the opposing vices: infidelitas, haeresis, apostasia, blasphemia, and caecitas mentis (spiritual blindness). Next in order come the virtue spes, and the corresponding gift of the Spirit, timor, and the opposing vices of desperatio and praesumptio.[449] Next, caritas, with its dilectio, its gaudium, its pax, its misericordia, its beneficentia and eleemosyna, and its correctio fraterna; then the opposite vices, odium, acedia, invidia, discordia, contentio, schisma, bellum, rixa, seditio, scandalum. Next the donum sapientiae, and its opposite, stultitia; next, prudentia, and its correspondent gift, consilium; and its connected vices, imprudentia, negligentia, and its evil semblances, dolus and fraus.

Says Thomas: Consequenter post prudentiam considerandum est de Justitia. Whereupon follows a juristic treatment of jus, justitia, judicium, restitutio, acceptio personarum; then homicide and other crimes recognized by law. Then come the virtues, connected with justitia, to wit, religio, and its acts, devotio, oratio, adoratio, sacrificium, oblatio, decimae, votum, juramentum; then the vices opposed to religio: superstitio, idolatria, tentatio Dei, perjurium, sacrilegium, simonia. Next is considered the virtue of pietas; then observantia, with its parts, i.e. dulia (service), obedientia, and its opposite, inobedientia. Next, gratia (thanks) or gratitudo, and its opposite, ingratitudo; next, vindicatio (punishment); next, veritas, with its opposites, hypocrisis, jactantia (boasting), and ironia; next, amicitia, with the vices of adulatio and litigium. Next, the virtue of liberalitas, and its vices,[Pg 328] avaritia and prodigalitas; next, epieikeia (aequitas). Finally, closing this discussion of all that is connected with Justitia, Thomas speaks of its corresponding gift of the Spirit, pietas.

Now comes the third cardinal virtue, Fortitudo—under which martyrium is the type of virtuous act; intimiditas and audacia are the two vices. Then the parts of Fortitudo, to wit, magnanimitas, magnificentia, patientia, perseverantia, and the obvious opposing vices. Next, the fourth cardinal virtue, Temperantia, its obvious opposing vices, and its parts, to wit, verecundia, honestas, abstinentia, sobrietas, castitas, clementia, modestia, humilitas, and the various appropriate acts and opposing vices related to these special virtues.

So far,[450] Thomas has been considering the virtues proper for all men; and now he comes to those specially pertaining to certain kinds of men, according to their gifts of grace, their modes of life, or the diversity of their offices, or stations. Of the special virtues related to gifts of grace, the first is prophetia, next raptus (vision), then gratia linguarum, and gratia miraculorum. After this, the vita activa and contemplativa, with their appropriate virtues, are considered. And then Thomas proceeds to speak De officiis et statibus hominum, and their respective virtues.

Here ends the Secunda secundae, and Pars tertia opens with this Prologue:

“Inasmuch as our Saviour Jesus Christ (as witnesseth the Angel, populum suum salvum faciens a peccatis eorum) has shown in himself the way of truth, through which we are able to come to the beatitude of immortal life by rising again, it is necessary, for the consummation of the whole theological matter, after the consideration of the final end of human life, and of the virtues and vices, that our attention should be fixed upon the Saviour of all and His benefactions to the human race.

“As to which, first one must consider the Saviour himself; secondly, His sacraments, by which we obtain salvation; thirdly, concerning the end (finis), immortal life, to which we come by rising again through Him.

“As to the first, one has to consider the mystery of the Incarnation, in which God was made man for our salvation, and then those things that were done and suffered by our Saviour, that is, God incarnate.”

[Pg 329]This Prologue indicates sufficiently the order of topics in the Pars tertia of the Summa, through Quaestio xc., at which point the hand of the Angelic Doctor was folded to eternal rest. He was then considering penance, the fourth in his order of Sacraments. All that he had to say as to the person, and attributes, and acts and passion of Christ had been written; and he had considered the Sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the eucharist; he was occupied with poenitentia; and still other sacraments remained, as well as his final treatment of the matters which lie beyond the grave. So he left his work unfinished, and, in spite of many efforts, unfinishable by any of his pupils or successors.[451]



Inasmuch as the matter of their thoughts was transmitted to the men of the Middle Ages, and was not drawn from their own observation or constructive reasoning, the fundamental intellectual endeavour for mediaeval men was to apprehend and make their own, and re-express. Their intellectual progress followed this process of appropriation, and falls into three stages—learning, organically appropriating, and re-expressing with added elements of thought. Logically, and generally in time, these three stages were successive. Yet, of course, they overlapped, and may be observed progressing simultaneously. Thus, for example, what was known of Aristotle at the beginning of the twelfth century was slight compared with the knowledge of his philosophy that was opened to western Europe in the latter part of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth. And while, by the middle of the twelfth century, the elements of Aristotle’s logic had been thoroughly appropriated, the substantial Aristotelian philosophy had still to be learned and mastered, before it could be reformulated and re-expressed as part of mediaeval thought.

[Pg 330]Looking solely to the outer form, the three stages of mediaeval thought are exemplified in the Scriptural Commentary of the later Carolingian time, in the twelfth-century Books of Sentences, and at last in the more organic Summa theologiae. With this significant evolution and change of outer form, proceeded the more substantial evolution consisting in learning, appropriating, and re-expressing the inherited material. In both cases, these three stages were necessitated by the greatness of the transmitted matter; for the intellectual energies of the mediaeval period were fully occupied with mastering the data proffered so pressingly, with presenting and re-presenting this superabundant material, and recasting it in new forms of statement, which were also expressions, or realizations, of the mediaeval genius. So the mediaeval product may be regarded as given by the past, and by the same token necessitated and controlled. But, on the other hand, each stage of intellectual progress rendered possible the next one.

The first stage of learning is represented by the Carolingian period, which we have considered. It was then that the patristic material was extracted from the writings of the Fathers, and rearranged and reapplied, to meet the needs of the time. The mastery of this material had scarcely made such vital progress as to enable the men of the ninth and tenth and eleventh centuries to re-express it largely in terms of their own thinking. In the ninth century, Eriugena affords an extraordinary exception with his drastic restatement of what he had drawn from Pseudo-Dionysius and others; and at the end comes Anselm, whose genius is metaphysically constructive. But Anselm touches the coming time; and the springs of Eriugena’s genius are hidden from us.

As for the antique thought during these Carolingian centuries, Eriugena dealt in his masterful way with what he knew of it through patristic and semi-patristic channels. But let us rather seek it in the curriculum of the Trivium and Quadrivium. What progress Gerbert made in the Quadrivium, that is, in the various branches of mathematics which he taught, has been noted, and to what extent his example was followed by his pupil Fulbert, at the cathedral[Pg 331] school of Chartres.[452] The courses of the Trivium—grammar, rhetoric, logic—demand our closer attention; for they were the key of the situation. We must keep in mind that we are approaching mediaeval thought from the side of the innate human need of intellectual expression—the impulse to know and the need to formulate one’s conceptions and express them consistently. For mediaeval men the first indispensable means to this end was grammar, including rhetoric, and the next was logic or dialectic. The Latin language contained the sum of knowledge transmitted to the Middle Ages. And it had to be learned. This was true even in Italy and Spain and France, where each year the current ways of Romance speech were departing more definitely from the parent stock; it was more patently true in the countries of Teutonic speech. Centuries before, the Roman youth had studied grammar that they might speak and write correctly. Now it was necessary to study Latin grammar, to wit, the true forms and literary usages of the Latin tongue, in order to acquire any branch of knowledge whatsoever, and express one’s corresponding thoughts. And men would not at first distinguish sharply between the mediating value of the learned tongue and the learning which it held.[453]

Thus grammar, the study of the Latin language, represented the first stage of knowledge for mediaeval men. This was to remain true through all the mediaeval centuries; since all youths who became scholars had to learn the language before they could study what was contained in it alone. One may also say, and yet not speak fantastically,[Pg 332] that grammar, the study of the correct use of the language itself, corresponded spiritually with the main intellectual labour of the Carolingian period. Alcuin’s attention is commonly fixed upon the significance of language, Latin of course. And the labours of his pupil Rabanus, and the latter’s pupil Walafrid, are as it were devoted to the grammar of learning. That is to say, they read and endeavour to understand the works of the Fathers; they compare and collate, and make volumes of extracts, which they arrange for the most part as Scripture commentaries; commentaries, that is, upon the significance of the canonical writings which were the substance of all wisdom, but needed much explication. Such works were the very grammar of knowledge, being devoted to the exposition of the meaning of the Scriptures and the vast burden of patristic thought. A like purpose was evinced in the efforts of the great emperor himself to re-establish schools of grammar, in order that the Scriptures might be more correctly understood, and the expositions of the holy Fathers. In fine, just as knowledge of the Latin tongue was the end and aim of grammar, so a correct understanding of what was contained in Latin books was the aim of the intellectual labours of this period. It all represented the first stage in the mediaeval acquisition of knowledge, or in the presentation or expression of the same; and thus the first stage in the mediaeval endeavour to realize the human impulse to know.

The next course of the Trivium was logic; and likewise its study will represent truly the second stage in the mediaeval realization of the human impulse to know, to wit, the second stage in the appropriation and expression of the knowledge transmitted from the past. We have spoken at some length of the logical studies of Gerbert, and his endeavours to adjust his thinking and classify the branches of knowledge by means of formal logic.[454] Those discussions of his which seem somewhat puerile to us, were essential to his endeavours to formulate what he had learned, and present it as rational and ordered knowledge. Logic is properly the stage succeeding grammar in the formulation of rational knowledge. At least it was for men of Gerbert’s[Pg 333] time, and the following centuries. Rightly enough they looked on logic as a scientia sermotionalis, which on one side touched sheer linguistics, and on the other, had for its field the further processes of reason. Thus Hugo of St. Victor, Abaelard’s very great contemporary, says:

“Logic is named from the Greek word logos, which has a twofold interpretation. For logos means either sermo or ratio; and therefore logic may be termed either a scientia sermotionalis or a scientia rationalis. Logica rationalis embraces dialectic and rhetoric, and is called discretiva (argumentative and exercising judgment); logica sermotionalis is the genus which includes grammar, dialectic and rhetoric, to wit, discursive science (disertiva).”[455]

The close connection between grammar and logic is evident. Logic treats of language used in rational expression, as well as of the reasoning processes carried on in language. Its elementary chapters teach a rational use of language, whereby men may reach a more deeply consistent expression of their thoughts than is gained from grammar. Yet grammar also is logic, and based on logical principles. All this is exemplified in the logical treatises composing the Aristotelian Organon, which the Middle Ages used. First comes Porphyry’s Isagoge, which clearly is bound up in language. Likewise Aristotle’s Categories treat of the rational and consistent use of language, or of what may be stated in language. Next it is obvious that the De interpretatione treats of language used to express thought, its generic function. The more advanced treatises of the Organon, the Prior and Posterior Analytics, the Topics, and Sophistical Elenchi, treat directly and elaborately of the reasoning processes themselves. So one perceives the grammatical affinities of the simpler treatises in the Organon. The more advanced ones seem to stand to them as oratorical rhetoric stands to elementary grammar. For the Analytics, Topics, and Sophistical Elenchi are a kind of eristic, training the student to use the processes of thought and their expression in order to attain an end, commonly argumentative. The prior treatises have taught the elements, as it were the orthography and etymology of the rational expression of thought in language; the latter (even as syntax and rhetoric),[Pg 334] train the student in the use of these elements. And one observes a nice historical fitness in the fact that only the simpler treatises of the Organon were in common use in the early Middle Ages, since they alone were necessary to the first stage in the appropriation of the substance of patristic and antique thought. The full Organon was rediscovered, and retaken into use in the middle or latter part of the twelfth century, when men had progressed to a more organic appropriation of the patristic material and what they knew of the antique philosophy.

Thus in mediaeval education, and in the successive order of appropriating the patristic and the antique, logic stood on grammar’s shoulders. It was grammar’s rationalized stage, and treated language as the means of expressing thought consistently and validly; that is, so as not to contravene the necessities of that whereof it was the vehicle. And since language thus treated was in accord with rational thought, it would accord with the realities to which thought corresponds; and might be taken as expressing them. This last reflection introduces metaphysics.

And properly. For the three stages in the mediaeval appropriation and expression of knowledge were grammar, logic, metaphysics. Logic has to do with the processes of thought; with the positing of premises and the drawing of the conclusion. It does not necessarily consider whether the contents of its premises represent realities. This is matter for ontology, metaphysics. Now mediaeval metaphysics, which were those of Greek philosophy, were extremely pre-Kantian, in assuming a correspondence between the necessities or conclusions of thought and the supreme realities, God and the Universe. Nor did mediaeval logic doubt that its processes could elucidate and express the veritable natures of things. So mediaeval logic readily wandered into the province of metaphysics, and ignored the line between the two.

Yet there is little metaphysics in the Organon; none in its simpler treatises. So there was none in the elementary logical instruction of the schools before the twelfth century at least.[456] One may always distinguish between logic and[Pg 335] metaphysics; and it is to our purpose to do so here. For as we have taken logic to represent the second stage in the mediaeval appropriation of knowledge, so metaphysics, poised in turn on logic’s shoulders, is very representative of the third stage, to wit, the stage of systematic and organic re-expression of the ancient matter, with elements added by the great schoolmen.

Metaphysics was very properly the final stage. The grammatical represented an elementary learning of what the past had transmitted; the logical a further retrying of the matter, an attempt to understand and express it, formulate parts of it anew, with deeper consistency of expression. Then follows the attempt for final and universal consistency: final inasmuch as thought penetrates to the nature of things and expresses realities and the relationships of realities; and universal, in that it seeks to order and systematize all its concepts, and bring them to unity in a Summa—a perfected scheme of rational presentation of God and His creation. This will be, largely speaking, the final endeavour of the mediaeval man to ease his mind, and realize his impulse to know and express himself with uttermost consistency.

So for mediaeval men, metaphysics stood on logic’s shoulders and represented the final completion of their thought, in a universal system and scheme of God and man and things.[457] But the first part of this proposition had not been true with Greek philosophy. Metaphysics is properly occupied with being, in its ultimate essence and relationships; with the consistent putting together of things, to wit, the presentation or expression of them so as not to disagree with any of the data recognized as pertinent. The thinker considers profoundly, seeking to penetrate the ultimate reality and relationships of things, through which a universal whole is constituted. This makes ontology, metaphysics—the science of being, of causes, and so the science of the first Cause, God. Aristotle called this the “first” philosophy, because lying at the base of all branches of knowledge, and[Pg 336] depending on nothing beyond itself. Some time after his death, the Peripatetics and then the Neo-Platonists called this first science by the name of Metaphysics, “after” or “beyond” physics, if one will, perhaps because of the actual order of treatment in the schools.

The term Metaphysics is vague enough; either “first” philosophy or “ontology” is preferable. Yet as to Greek philosophy the term has apt historical suggestiveness. For it did come after physics in time, and was in fact evoked by the imperfect method and consequent contradictions of the earlier philosophies. From the beginning, Greek philosophy drove straight at the cause or origin of things—surely the central problem of metaphysics. Thales and the other Ionians began with rational, though crude, hypotheses as to the sources of the universe. These were first attempts to reach a consistent expression of its origin and nature. Each succeeding philosopher considered further, from the vantage-ground of the recognized inconsistencies or inadequacies in the theories of his predecessors. He was thus led on to consider more profoundly the essential relationships of things, the very truth of their relationships, and on and on into the problem of their being. For the verity of relations must be according to the verity of being of the things related. The world about us consists in relationships, of antecedents and sequences, of cause and effect; and our thought of it is made up of consistencies or contradictions, which last we struggle to eliminate, or to transform to consistencies.

These early philosophers looked only to the Aristotelian material cause for the origin and cause of things; yet reflection plunged them deeper into a consideration of the nature of being and relationships. The other causes were evoked by Anaxagoras and then by Plato, and by them were led into the arena of debate; and philosophers discussed the efficient and final cause as well as the material. Such discussions are recognized by Plato, and finally by Aristotle as relating to the first principles of cognition and being, and so as constituting metaphysics. The constant search for a deeper consistency of explanation had led on and on through a manifold consideration of those palpable[Pg 337] relationships which make up the visible world; it had disclosed the series of necessary assumptions required by those visible relationships; and thus the search for causality and origins, and essential relationships, became one and the same—metaphysics.

Metaphysics was not ineptly called so, since it had in time come after the cruder physical hypotheses. But such was not the order of mediaeval intellectual progress. The Middle Ages passed through no preliminary course of physical hypotheses, explanatory of the universe. Not physics, but logic (introduced by grammar) led up to the final construction—or rather adoption and reconstruction—of ultimate hypotheses as to God and man, led up to the all-ordering and all-compassing Theologia. Metalogics, rather than Metaphysics, would be the proper name for these final expressions or actualizations of the mediaeval impulse to know.



[Pg 338]



I. The Problem of Universals: Abaelard.
II. The Mystic Strain: Hugo and Bernard.
III. The Later Decades: Bernard Silvestris; Gilbert de la Porrée;
William of Conches; John of Salisbury, and Alanus of Lille.



From the somewhat elaborate general considerations which have occupied the last two chapters, we turn to the representative manifestations of mediaeval thought in the twelfth century. These belong in part to the second or “logical,” and in part to the third or “meta-logical,” stage of the mediaeval mind. The first or “grammatical” stage was represented by the Carolingian period; and in reviewing the mental aspects of the eleventh century, we entered upon the second stage, that of logic, or dialectic, to use the more specific mediaeval term. Toward the close of the tenth century Gerbert was found strenuously occupying himself with logic, and using it as a means of ordering the branches of knowledge. At the end of the eleventh, Anselm has not only considered certain logical problems, but has vaulted over into constructive metaphysical theology. Looking back over Anselm’s work, from the vantage-ground of the twelfth century’s further reflections, one may be conscious of a certain genial youthfulness in his reliance upon single arguments, noble and beautiful soarings of the spirit, which however pay little regard to the firmness of the premises from which they spring, and still less to a number of cognate[Pg 339] and pertinent considerations, which the twelfth century was to analyze.

Anselm’s thoughts perhaps overleaped logic. At all events he appears only occasionally absorbed with its formal problems. Yet he lived in a time of dawning logical controversy. Roscellin was even then blowing up the problem of universals, a problem occasioned by the entering of mediaeval thought upon the “logical” stage of its appropriation of the patristic and antique.

The problem of universals, or general ideas, from the standpoint of logic, lies at the basis of consistent thinking. It reverts to the time when Aristotle’s assertion of the pre-eminently real existence of individuals broke away from the Platonic doctrine of Ideas. For the early mediaeval philosophers, it took its rise in a famous passage in Porphyry’s Introduction to the Categories, the concluding sentence of which, as translated into Latin by Boëthius, puts the question thus: “Mox de generibus et speciebus illud quidem sive subsistant sive in nudis intellectibus posita sint, sive subsistentia corporalia sint an incorporalia, et utrum separata a sensibilibus an in sensibilibus posita et circa haec consistentia, dicere recusabo.” “Next as to genera and species, do they actually exist or are they merely in thought; are they corporeal or incorporeal existences; are they separate from sensible things or only in and of them?—I refuse to answer,” says Porphyry; “it is a very lofty business, unsuited to an elementary work.”

Thus, in three pairs of crude alternatives, the question came over to the early Middle Ages. The men of the Carolingian period took one position or another, without sensing its difficulties, or observing how it lay athwart the path of knowledge. Students were not as yet attempting such a dynamic appropriation of the ancient material as would evoke this veritable problem of cognition. Even Gerbert at the close of the tenth century was still so busy with the outer forms and figments of logic that he had no time to enter on those ulterior problems where logic links itself to metaphysics. One Roscellin, living and teaching apparently at Besançon in the latter part of the eleventh century, seems to have been the first to attack the[Pg 340] currently accepted “realism” with some sense of the matter’s thorny intricacies. With his own “nominalistic” position we are acquainted only through his adversaries, who imputed to him views which a thoughtful person could hardly have entertained—that universals were merely words and breath (flatus vocis). Roscellin seems at all events to have been a man strongly held by the reality of individuals, and one who found it difficult to ascribe a sufficient intellectual actuality to the general idea as distinguished from the perception of things and the demands of the concepts of their individual existences. His logical difficulties impelled him to theological heresy. The unity in the Trinity became an impossibility; he could only conceive of three beings, just as he might think of three angels; and he would have spoken of three Gods had usage not forbidden it, says St. Anselm.[458] As it was, he said enough to draw on him the condemnation of a Council held at Soissons in 1092, before which he quailed and recanted. For the remainder of his life he so constrained the expression of his thoughts as to ensure his safety.

One may say that Plato’s theory of ideas was a metaphysical presentation of the universe, sounding in conceptions of reality. But for the Middle Ages, the problem whether genera and species exist when abstracted from their particulars, sprang from logical controversy. It was a problem of cognition, cognizance, understanding: how should one understand and analyze the contents of a statement, e.g. Socrates is a man. Moreover, it was a fundamental and universal problem of cognition; for it was not merely occupied, like all mental processes, with bringing data to consistent formulation, but pertained to those processes themselves by which any and all data are stated or formulated. It touched every formulation of truth, asking, in fine, how are we to think our statements? The philosophers of the[Pg 341] eleventh and twelfth centuries, however, did not view this problem as one pertaining to the mind’s processes, and as having to do solely with the understanding of the contents of a statement. Rather, even as Plato had done, they approached it as if it were a problem of modes of existence; and for this very reason it had pushed Roscellin into theological error.

The discussion was to pass through various stages; and each stage may seem to us to represent the point reached by the thinker in his analysis of his conscious meaning in stating a proposition. Moreover, each solution may be valid for him who gives it, because of its correspondence to the meaning of his utterances so far as he has analyzed them. But mediaeval men could not take it in this way. Their intellectual task lay in appropriating, and in their own way re-expressing, all that had come to them from an authoritative past. The problem of universals had been stated by a great authority, who put it as pertaining to the objective reality of genera and species. How then might mediaeval men take it otherwise, especially when at all events it pertained in all verity to their endeavour to grasp and re-express the contents of transmitted truth? It became for a while the crucial problem, the answer to which might indicate the thinker’s general intellectual attitude. Far from keeping to logic, to the organon or instrumental part of the mediaeval endeavour to know, it wound itself through metaphysics and theology. Obviously the thinker’s answer to the problem would bear relation to his thoughts upon the transcendent reality of spiritual essences.

The men who first became impressed with the importance of this problem, gave extreme answers to it, sometimes crassly denying the real existence of universals, but more often hailing them as antecedent and all-permeating realities. If Roscellinus took the former position, a pupil of his, William of Champeaux, held the extreme opposite view, when both he and the twelfth century were still young. One may, however, bear in mind that as the views of the older nominalist are reported only by his enemies, so our knowledge of William’s lucubrations comes mainly from the exacerbated pen of Peter Abaelard.

[Pg 342]William held apparently “that the same thing, in its totality and at the same time, existed in its single individuals, among which there was no essential difference, but merely a variety of accidents.”[459] Abaelard appears to have performed a reductio ad absurdum upon this view that the total genus exists in each individual. He pointed out that in such case the total genus homo would at the same time exist in Socrates and also in Plato, when one of them might be in Rome and the other in Athens. “At this William changed his opinion,” continues Abaelard, “and taught that the genus existed in each individual not essentialiter but indifferenter or [as some texts read] individualiter.” Which seems to mean that William no longer held that the total genus existed in each individual actually, but “indistinguishably,” or “individually.”

And the students flocked away with Abaelard, he also says; and William fled the lecture chair. William and Peter; shall we say of them arcades ambo? This would be but a harmless depreciation of Abaelard, in the face of the universal and correct tradition as to his epoch-making intellectual progressiveness. Indeed it might be well to let the phrase sound in our ears, just for the reminder’s sake, that Abaelard was, like William, a man of logic, although far more expert both in manipulating the dialectic processes and in applying them to theology.

Before endeavouring briefly to reconstruct the intellectual qualities of Abaelard from his writings, let us see how the famous open letter to a friend, in giving an apologetic story of the writer’s life, discloses the fatalities of his character. This Historia calamitatum suarum makes it plain enough why the crises of his life were all of them catastrophes—even leaving out of view his liaison with Heloïse and its penalty. A fatal impulse to annoy seems to drive him from fate to fate; the old word of Heraclitus ἦθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων (character is a man’s genius) was so patently true of him. Much that he said was to receive orthodox approval after his time. Quite true. It has often been remarked, that the heresy of one age is the accepted doctrine of the next, even within the Church. But would the heretic have been persona[Pg 343] grata to the later time? Perhaps not. Peter Abaelard at all events would have led others and himself a life of thorns in the thirteenth century, or the fourteenth had he been born again, when some of his methods and opinions had become accepted commonplace. Did he have an eye for logical and human truth more piercing than his twelfth-century fellows? Apparently. Was his need to speak out his truth so much the more imperative than theirs? Possibly. At all events, he was certainly possessed with an inordinate impulsion to undo his rivals. He sits down before their fortress walls by night, and when they see him there, they know not whether they look on friend or foe—in this auditor. They will find out soon enough. He studied dialectic under William of Champeaux at Paris, as all men were to know. He got what William had to teach, and moved on, to lecture in Melun and elsewhere. Then he returned and sat at William’s feet awhile to learn rhetoric, as he announced. But quickly he rose up, and assailed his master’s doctrine of universals, and overthrew him, as we have seen. The victim’s friends made Abaelard’s eristically won lecturer’s seat a prickly one. He left Paris for a while, and then returned and taught on Mount St. Geneviève, outside the city.

Up to this time he had not been known to study theology. But in 1113, at the age of thirty-four, he went to Laon to listen to a famous theologian named Anselm, who himself had studied at Bec under a greater Anselm. Says Abaelard in his Historia calamitatum: “So I came to this old man, whose repute was a tradition, rather than merited by talent or learning. Any one who brought his uncertainties to him, went away more uncertain still! He was a marvel in the eyes of his hearers, but a nobody before a questioner. He had a wonderful wordflow, but the sense was contemptible and the reasoning abject.” Well, I didn’t listen to him long, Abaelard intimates; but began to absent myself from his lectures, and was brought to task by his auditors, to whom jokingly I said, I, too, could lecture on Scripture; and I was taken up. Nothing loath, the next day I lectured to them on the passage they had chosen from Ezekiel’s obscure prophecies. So, all unprepared, and trusting[Pg 344] in my genius, I began to lecture, at first to sparse audiences, but they quickly grew. Such is the substance of Abaelard’s own account, and he goes on to tell how “the old man aforesaid was violently moved with envy,” and shortly Abaelard had to take his lecturings elsewhere. He returned to Paris, and we have the episode of Heloïse, for whom, as his life went on, he evinced a devoted affection.[460]

Now he is monk in the abbey of St. Denis; and there again he lectures, and takes up certain themes against Roscellinus, whom he seems to resurrect from the quiet of old age to make a target of. This old man, too, hits back, and other vicious people blow up a cloud of envy, until the gifted lecturer finds himself an accused before the Council of Soissons, and his book condemned. Untaught by the burning of his book, Abaelard returns to his convent, and proceeds to unearth statements of the Venerable Bede showing that Dionysius the Areopagite who heard Paul preach, was not the St. Denis who became patron saint of France, and founder of the great abbey which even now was sheltering a certain Abaelard, and drawing power and revenue from the fame of its reputed almost apostolic founder. Its abbot and monks did not care to have the abbey walls undermined by truth, and Abaelard was hunted forth from among them.

It was after this that he made for himself a lonely refuge, which he named the Paraclete, not far from Troyes, and thither again his pupils followed him in swarms, and built their huts around him in the wilderness. But still mightier foes—or their phantoms—rise against this hunted head. The Historia seems to allude to St. Norbert and to St. Bernard. Whatever the storm was, it was escaped by flight to a remote Breton convent which—still for his sins!—had chosen Abaelard its abbot. There in due course they tried to murder him, and again he fled, this time back to his congenial sphere, the schools of Paris, where he lectured, now at the summit of fame, to enthusiastic multitudes of students. Some years pass, and then the pious jackal, William of St. Thierry, rouses his lion Bernard to contend with Abaelard and crush him, not with dialectic, at the[Pg 345] Council of Sens in 1141. In a year he died, a broken man, in Cluny’s shelter. The conflict had not been of his seeking. Perhaps, had he been less vain, he might have avoided it. When it was upon him, the unhappy athlete of the schools found himself a pigmy matched against the giant of Clairvaux—the Thor and Loki of the Church! Whether or not the unequal battle raises Abaelard in our esteem, its outcome commends him to our pity; and all our sympathy stays with him to the last days of a life that was, as if physically, crushed. This accumulation of sad fortune bears witness enough to the character of the man on whose neck it did not fall by accident. Now let us try to reconstruct him intellectually.

We have heretofore observed the genius and noted the somewhat swaddling dialectic categories of a certain eager intellect bearing the name of Gerbert.[461] Abaelard’s mental processes have advanced beyond such logical stammerings. He and his time are in the fulness of youth, and feel the strength and joyful assurance of an intellectual progress, to be brought about by a new-found proficiency in dialectic. In the first half of the twelfth century, the intellectual genius of the time—and Abaelard was its quintessence—knew itself advancing by this means in truth. A like intellectual consciousness had rejoiced the disputants in Plato’s academy, under the inspiration of that beautiful reasoner’s exquisite dialectic. The one time, like the other, was justified in its confidence. For in such epochs, language, reasoning, and knowledge advance with equal step; thought clears up with linguistic and logical analysis; it becomes clear and illuminated because more distinctly conscious of the character of its processes, and the nature of statement. There is thus a veritable progress, at least in the methodology of truth.

In Abaelard’s time men had already studied grammar, the grammar of the Latin tongue, and the quasi-grammar of rearrangement and first painful learning of the knowledge which it held. They had studied logic too, its simpler elements, those which consist mainly in a further clearing up of the meanings of language. Some men—Anselm of[Pg 346] Canterbury—had already made sudden flights beyond grammar, and out of logic’s pale. And the labour of logical and organic appropriation, with some reconstruction of the ancient material, was to go on in this first half of the twelfth century, when Hugo of St. Victor lived as well as Abaelard. Progress by means of dialectic controversy, and first attempts at systematic construction, mark this period intellectually. Abaelard lived and moved and had his being in dialectic. The further interest of Theology was lent him by the spirit of his time. Through the medium of the one he reasoned analytically; and in the province of the other he applied his reasoning constructively, using patristic materials and the fragments of Greek philosophy scattered through them. Thus Abaelard, a true man of the twelfth century, passes on through logic to theology or metaphysics.

For the completeness of his logical knowledge he lived and worked twenty or thirty years too soon. He was unacquainted with the more elaborate logical treatises of Aristotle, to wit, the Prior and Posterior Analytics, the Topics, and Sophistical Elenchi. The sources of his own treatises upon Dialectic are Porphyry’s Introduction, Aristotle’s Categories and De interpretatione, and certain treatises of Boëthius.[462] A first result of the elementary and quasi-grammatical character of the sources of logic upon which he drew, is that the connection between logic and grammar is very plain with him. Note, for example, this paragraph of his, the substance of which is drawn from Aristotle’s Categories:

“But neither can substances be compared,[463] since comparison relates to attribute, and not to substance; so it is shown that comparison lies not as to nouns, but as to their attributes. Thus we say whiter but not whitenesser. Much more are substances which have no attribute (adjacentiam) immune from comparison. More or less cannot be predicated of nouns (nomina substantiva). For one cannot say more man or less man, as more or less white.”[464]

[Pg 347]Evidently this elementary sort of logic, whether with Aristotle or Abaelard, represents a clearing up of the mind on current modes of expression. And sometimes from such studies men make discoveries like that of Molière’s Bourgeois Gentilhomme, who discovered that he had always been talking prose. Some of the points on which the minds of Abaelard’s contemporaries required clarification, would be foolish word-play to ourselves, as, for instance, whether the significance of the sentence homo est animal is contained in the subject, copula, or predicate, or only in all three; and whether when a word is spoken, the very same word and the whole of it comes to the ears of all the hearers at the same time: “utrum ipsa vox ad aures diversorum simul et tota aequaliter veniat.”[465] Such questions, as was observed regarding the problems of logical arrangement in Gerbert’s mind, may be pertinent and reasonable enough, if viewed in connection with the intellectual conditions of a period; just as many questions now make demand on us for solution, being links in the chain of our knowledge, or manner of reasoning. But future men may pass them by as not lying in their path to progressive knowledge of the universe and man.

So the problem of universals was still cardinal with Abaelard and his fellow-logicians, who through logic were advancing, as they believed, along the path of objective truth. Its solution would determine the nature of the categories into which logic was fitting whatever might be enunciated or expressed. The inquiry represented an ultimate analysis of statement, of the general nature of propositions; and also related to their assumed correspondence with realities. What William of Champeaux had unqualifiedly alleged, Abaelard tried to determine more analytically, to wit, the value of the proposition “si aliquid sit ea res quae est species, id est vel homo vel equus et caetera, sit quaelibet res quae eorum genus est, veluti animal aut corpus aut substantia,”—if species be something, as man,[Pg 348] horse, and so forth, then that which is the genus of these may be something, as animal, body, or substance.[466]

Abaelard’s discussion of this matter is a discussion of the true content of propositions. His conclusion is not so clear as to have occasioned no dispute. One must not think of him as an Aristotelian—for he knew little of the substantial philosophy of Aristotle. Our dialectician had absorbed more of Plato, through turbid patristic channels and the current translation of the Timaeus. So his solution of the question of genus and species may prove an analytic bit of eclecticism, an imagined reconcilement of the two great masters. The universal or general is, says he, “quod natum est de pluribus praedicari,” that which is by its nature adapted to be predicated of a number of things. The universal consists neither in things as such nor in words as such; it consists rather in general predicability; it is sermo, sermo praedicabilis, that which may be stated, as a predicate, of many. As such it is not a mere word: sermo is not merely vox; that is not the true general predicable. On the other hand, one thing cannot be the predicate of another; res de re non praedicatur: therefore sermo is not res. Yet Abaelard does not limit the existence of the universal to the concept of him who thinks it. It surely exists in the individuals, since substantia specierum is not different from the essentia individuorum. But does not the general concept exist as an objective unity? Apparently Abaelard would answer: Yes, it does thus exist as a common sameness (consimilitudo).

All this is anything but clear. And the various twelfth-century opinions on universals no longer possess human interest. It is hard for us to distinguish between them, or understand them clearly, or state them intelligibly. They are bound up in a phraseology untranslatable into modern language, because the discussion no longer corresponds to modern ways of thought. But one is interested in the human need which drove Abaelard and his fellows upon the horns of this problem, and in the nature of their endeavours to formulate their thought so as to escape those opposing horns—of an extreme realism which might issue in pantheism,[Pg 349] and an extreme nominalism which seemed to deprive predication of substance and validity.[467]

So much for Abaelard as sheer logician, formal adjuster of the instrumental processes of thinking. Dialectic was for him a first stage in the actualization of the impulse to know, and bring knowledge to consistent expression. It was also his way of approach to the further systematic presentation of his thoughts upon God and man, human society and justice, divine and human.

“A new calumny against me, have my rivals lately devised, because I write upon the dialectic art; affirming that it is not lawful for a Christian to treat of things which do not pertain to the Faith. Not only they say that this science does not prepare us for the Faith, but that it destroys faith by the implications of its arguments. But it is wonderful if I must not discuss what is permitted them to read. If they allow that the art militates against faith, surely they deem it not to be science (scientia). For the science of truth is the comprehension of things, whose species is the wisdom in which faith consists. Truth is not opposed to truth. For not as falsehood may be opposed to falsity, or evil to evil, can the true be opposed to the true, or the good to the good; but rather all good things are in accord. All knowledge is good, even that which relates to evil, because a righteous man must have it. Since he should guard against evil, it is necessary that he should know it beforehand: otherwise he could not shun it. Though an act be evil, knowledge regarding it is good; though it be evil to sin, it is good to know the sin, which otherwise we could not shun. Nor is the science mathematica to be deemed evil, whose practice (astrology) is evil. Nor is it a crime to know with what services and immolations the demons may be compelled to do our will, but to use such knowledge. For if it were evil to know this, how could God be absolved, who knows the desires and cogitations of all His creatures, and how the concurrence of demons may be obtained? If therefore it is not wrong to know, but to do, the evil is to be referred to the act and not to the knowledge. Hence we are convinced that all knowledge, which indeed comes from God alone and from His bounty, is good. Wherefore the study of every science should be conceded to be good, because that which is good comes from it; and especially one must insist upon the study of that doctrina by which the greater truth is known. This is dialectic, whose function is to distinguish between every truth and[Pg 350] falsity: as leader in all knowledge it holds the primacy and rule of all philosophy. The same also is shown to be needful to the Catholic Faith, which cannot without its aid resist the sophistries of schismatics.”[468]

In this passage the man himself is speaking, and disclosing his innermost convictions. For Abaelard’s nature was set upon understanding all things through reason, even the mysteries of the Faith. He does not say, or quite think, that he will disbelieve whatever he cannot understand; but his reasoning and temper point to the conclusion. This was obviously true of Abaelard’s ethical opinions; his enemies said it was true of his theology. Such a man would naturally plead for freedom of discussion, even for freedom of conclusion; but within certain bounds; for who in the twelfth century could maintain that heretics or infidels did rightly in rejecting the Christian Faith? Yet Abaelard says heretics should be compelled (coercendi) by reason rather than force.[469] And he could at least conceive of the rejection of the Faith upon, say, imperfect rational grounds. In his dialogue between Philosopher, Jew, and Christian, the Christian says to the Philosopher: One cannot argue against you from the authority of Scripture, which you do not recognize; for no one can be refuted save with arguments drawn from what he admits: Nemo quippe argui nisi ex concessis potest.[470] However this sounded in Abaelard’s time, the same was enunciated by Thomas Aquinas after him, in a passage already given.[471] But it is doubtful whether Thomas would have cared to follow Abaelard in some of the arguments of his Ethics or Book called, Know Thyself, in which he maintains that no act is a sin unless the actor was conscious of its sinfulness; and therefore that killing the martyrs could not be imputed as sin to those persecutors who deemed themselves thereby to be doing a service acceptable to God.[472]

The titles given by Abaelard to his various treatises are indicative of the critical insistency of his nature. He called[Pg 351] his Ethica, Scito te ipsum, Know Thyself: understand thy good and ill intentions, and what may be vice or virtue in thee. Through the book, the discussion of right and wrong directs itself as pertinaciously to considerations of human nature as was possible in an age when theological dogma held the final criteria of human conduct. And Abaelard is capable of a lofty insight touching the relationship between God and man.

“Penitence,” says he, “is truly fruitful when grief and contrition proceed from love of God, regarded as benignant, rather than from fear of penalties. Sin cannot endure with this groaning and contrition of heart: for sin is contempt of God, or consent to evil, and the love of God in inspiring our groaning, suffers no ill.”[473]

Possibly when reading the Scito te ipsum one is conscious of a dialectician drawing distinctions, rather than of a moralist searching the heart of the matter. Everything is set forth so reasonably. Yet Abaelard’s impartial delight in a rational view of belief and conduct shows nowhere quite as obviously as in his Dialogue between Philosopher and Jew and Christian. Each in turn is made to set forth the best arguments his position admits of. The author does his best for each, and perhaps seems temperamentally drawn to the position of the Philosopher, whom he permits to call the Jews stultos and the Christians insanos. This philosopher naturally is no Greek of Plato’s or Aristotle’s time, but a good Roman, who regards moralis philosophia as the finis omnium disciplinarum, and hangs all intellectual considerations upon a discussion of the summum bonum. His well-worn arguments are put with earnestness. He deprecates the blind acceptance of beliefs by children from their fathers, and the narrowness of mind which keeps men from perceiving the possible truth in others’ opinions:

“so that whomsoever they see differing from themselves in belief, they deem alien from the mercy of God. Thus condemning all others, they vaunt themselves alone as blessed. Long reflecting on this blindness and pride of the human race, I have unceasingly besought the Divine Pity that He would deign to draw me forth from this miserable Charibdian whirlpool of error, and guide me to[Pg 352] a port of safety. So you [addressing both Jew and Christian] behold me solicitous and attentive as a disciple, to the documents of your arguments.”[474]

The qualities cultivated by dialectic, and the impartial rational temper, here displayed, reappear in the works of Abaelard devoted to sacred doctrine. Enough has been said of the method and somewhat captious qualities of the Sic et non.[475] Unquestionably its manner of presenting the contradictory opinions of the Fathers, without any attempt to reconcile them, tended to bring into view the difficulties inhering in the formulation of Christian belief. And indeed the book made prominent all the diabolic insoluble problems of the Faith, or rather of life itself and any view of God and man: Predestination, for example; whether God causes evil; whether He is omnipotent; whether He is free. The Lombard’s Sentences and Thomas’s Summa considered all these questions; but they strove to solve them; and Thomas did solve every one, leaving no loose ends to his theology. More potently than Abaelard did the Angelic Doctor employ dialectic in his finished scheme. With him, this propaedeutic discipline, this tool of truth, perfectly performs its task of construction. So also Abaelard intended to work with it; but his somewhat unconsidered use of the tool did not meet the approval of his contemporaries. Accordingly, in his more constructive theological treatises his impulse to know and state appears finally actualized in the systematic formulation of convictions upon topics of ultimate interest, to wit, theology, the contents of the Christian Faith, the full relationship of God and man. Did he sever theology from philosophy? Nay, rather, with him theology was ultimate philosophy.

Several times Abaelard rewrote what was substantially the same general work upon Theology. In one of its earliest forms it was burnt by the Council of Soissons in 1121.[476] In another form it exists under the title Theologia Christiana;[477] and the first part of its apparently[Pg 353] final revision is now improperly entitled, Introductio ad theologiam.[478]

The first Book of the Theologia Christiana is an exposition of the Trinity, not clinched in syllogisms, but consisting mainly of an orderly presentation of the patristic authorities supporting the author’s view of the matter. The testimonies of profane writers are also given. Liber II. opens by saying that in the former part of the work “we have collected the testimonia of prophets and philosophers, in support of the faith of the Holy Trinity.” Hereupon, by the same method of adducing authorities, Abaelard proceeds to refute those who had blamed him for citing the pagan philosophers. He marshals his supporting excerpts from the Fathers, and remarks: “That nothing is more needful for the defence of our faith than that as against the importunities of all the infidels we should have witness from themselves wherewith to refute them.” Then he points to the moral worth of some of the philosophers, to their true teaching of the soul’s immortality, and quotes Horace’s

“Oderunt peccare boni virtutis amore.”

He continues at some length setting forth their well-nigh evangelical virtue, and speaks of the Gospel as reformatio legis naturalis.

At the beginning of Liber III. comes the statement: “We set the faith of the blessed Trinity as the foundation of all good.” Whereupon Abaelard breaks out in a denunciation of those who misuse dialectic; but again he passes to a defence of the art as an art and branch of knowledge, and shows its need as a weapon against those wranglers who will be quieted neither by the authority of the saints nor the philosophers: against whom, he, Abaelard, trusting in the divine aid, will turn this weapon as David did the sword of Goliath. He now states the true object of his work: “First then is to be set forth the theme of our whole labour, and the sum of faith; the unity of the divine substance and the Trinity of persons, which are in God, and are one God. Next we state the objections to our theses, and then the solutions of those objections.” And he[Pg 354] gives the substance of the Athanasian Creed. From this point, his work becomes more dialectical and constructive, although of course continuing to quote authorities. He is emboldened to discuss the deepest mysteries, the very penetralia of the Trinity, and in a way which might well alarm men like Bernard, who desired acceptance of the Faith, with rhetoric, but without discussion. To be sure Abaelard pauses to justify himself by reverting to his apologetic purpose: “Heretics must be coerced with reason rather than by force.” However this may be, the work henceforth shows the passing on of logic to the exercise of its architectonic functions in constructing a systematic theological metaphysics.

The miscalled Introductio ad theologiam, as might be expected of a last revision of the author’s Theology, is a more organic work. In the Prologue, Abaelard speaks of it as a Summa sacrae eruditionis or an Introductio to Divine Scripture. And again he states the justifying purpose of his labour, or rather puts it into the mouths of his disciples who have asked for such a work from him: “Since our faith, the Christian Faith, seems entangled in such difficult questions, and to stand apart from human reason (et ab humana ratione longius absistere), it should be fortified by so much the stronger arguments, especially against the attacks of those who call themselves philosophers.” Continuing, Abaelard protests that if in any way, for his sins, he should deviate from the Catholic understanding and statement, he will on seeing his error revise the same, like the blessed Augustine.

The work itself opens with a statement of its intended divisions: “In three matters, as I judge, rests the sum of human salvation: Fides, caritas, and sacramentum”; and he gives his definition of faith, which was so obnoxious to Bernard and others, as the existimatio rerum non apparentium. The three extant Books do not conclude the treatment even of the first of these three topics. But one readily sees that were the work complete, its arrangement might correspond with that of Thomas’s Summa.[479] One may reiterate that it was more constructively argumentative than the Theologia[Pg 355] Christiana, even in the manner of using the cited authorities. For instance, Abaelard’s mind is fixed on the analogy between the Neo-Platonic Trinity of Deus, nous, and anima mundi, and that of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The nous fitly represents Christ, who is the Sapientia Dei—which Abaelard sets forth; but then with even greater insistency he identifies the Holy Spirit with the world-soul. Nothing gave a stronger warrant to the accusations of heresy brought against him than this last doctrine, with which he was obsessed. Yet what roused St. Bernard and his jackals was not so much any particular opinion of Abaelard, as his dialectic and critical spirit, which insisted upon understanding and explaining, before believing. “The faith of the righteous believes; it does not dispute. But that man, suspicious of God (Deum habens suspectum), has no mind to believe what his reason has not previously argued.”[480]

Still, when Bernard says that faith does not discuss, but believes, he states a conviction of his mind, a conviction corresponding with an inner need of his own to formulate and express his thought. Only, with Abaelard the need to consider and analyse was more consciously imperative. He could not avoid the constant query: How shall I think this thing—this thing, for example, which is declared by revelation? Just as other questioning spirits in other times might be driven upon the query: How shall we think these things which are disclosed by the variegated walls of our physical environment? Those yield data, or refuse them, and force the mind to put many queries, and come to some adjustment. So experience presents data for adjustment, just as dogma, Scripture, revelation present that which reason must bring within the action of its processes, and endeavour to find rational expression for.



The greatest dialectician of the early twelfth century felt no problems put him by the physical world. That did not attract his inquiry; it did not touch the reasonings evolved by his self-consciousness, any more than it impressed[Pg 356] the fervid mind of his great adversary, St. Bernard. The natural world, however, stirred the mind of Abaelard’s contemporary, Hugo of St. Victor.[481] Its colours waved before his reveries, and its visible sublimities drew his mind aloft to the contemplation of God: for him its things were all the things of God—opus conditionis or opus restaurationis;[482] the work of foundation, whereby God created the physical world for the support and edification of its crowning creature man; and the work of restoration, to wit, the incarnation of the Word, and all its sacraments.

Hugo was a Platonic and very Christian theologian. He would reason and expound, and yet was well aware that reason could not fathom the nature of God, or bring man to salvation. “Logic, mathematics, physics teach some truth, yet do not reach that truth wherein is the soul’s safety, without which whatever is is vain.”[483] So Hugo was not primarily a logician, like Abaelard; nor did he care chiefly for the kind of truth which might be had through logic. Nevertheless the productions of his short life prove the excellence of his mind and his large enthusiasm for knowledge.

As Hugo was the head of the school of St. Victor for some years before his death, certain of his works cover topics of ordinary mediaeval education, secular and religious; while others advance to a more profound expression of the intellectual, or spiritual, interests of their author. For elementary religious instruction, he composed a veritable book of Sentences,[484] which preceded the Lombard’s in time, but was later than Abaelard’s Sic et non. Without striking features, it lucidly and amiably carried out its general purpose of setting forth the authoritative explanations of the elements of the Christian Faith. The writer did not hesitate to quote opposing views, which were not heralded, however,[Pg 357] by such danger-signals of contradiction as flare from the chapter headings of the Sic et non.

The corresponding treatise upon profane learning—the Eruditio didascalica—is of greater interest.[485] It commences in elementary fashion, as a manual of study: “There are two things by which we gain knowledge, to wit, reading and meditation; reading comes first.” The book is to be a guide to the student in the study both of secular and divine writings; it teaches how to study the artes, and then how to study the Scriptures.[486] Even in this manual, Hugo shows himself a meditative soul, and one who seeks to base his most elementary expositions upon the nature and needs of man. The mind, says he, is distracted by things of sense, and does not know itself. It is renewed through study, so that it learns again not to look without for what itself affords. Learning is life’s solace, which he who finds is happy, and he who makes his own is blessed.[487]

For Hugo, philosophy is that which investigates the rationes of things human and divine, seeking ever the final wisdom, which is knowledge of the primaeva ratio: this distinguishes philosophy from the practical sciences, like agriculture: it follows the ratio, and they administer the matter. Again and again, Hugo returns to the thought that the object of all human actiones and studia is to restore the integrity of our nature or mitigate its weaknesses, restore the image of the divine similitude in us, or minister to the needs of life. This likeness is renewed by speculatio veritatis, or exercitium virtutis.[488]

Such is a pretty broad basis of theory for a high school manual. Hugo proceeds to set forth the scheme, rather than the substance, of the arts and sciences, pausing occasionally to admonish the reader to hold no science vile, since knowledge always is good; and he points out that all knowledge hangs together in a common coherency. He sketches[489] the true student’s life: Whoever seeks[Pg 358] learning, must not neglect discipline! He must be humble, and not ashamed to learn from any one; he must observe decent manners, and not play the fool and make faces at lecturers on divinity, for thereby he insults God. Yea, and let him mind the example of the ancient sages, who for learning’s sake spurned honours, rejected riches, rejoiced in insults, deserted the companionship of men, and gave themselves up to philosophy in desert solitudes, that they might be more free for meditation. Diligent search for wisdom in quietude becomes a scholar; and likewise poverty, and likewise exile: he is very delicate who clings to his fatherland; “He is brave to whom every land is home (patria); and he is perfect to whom the whole world is an exile!”[490]

Hugo has much to say of the pulchritudo and the decor of the creature-world. But with him the world and its beauty point to God. One should observe it because of its suggestiveness, the visible suggesting the invisible. Hugo has already been followed in his argument that the world, in its veriest reality, is a symbol.[491] Here we follow him along his path of knowledge, which leads on and upward from cogitatio, through meditatio, to contemplatio. The steps in Hugo’s scheme are rational, though the summit lies beyond. This path to truth, leading on from the visible symbol to the unseen power, is for him the reason and justification of study; drawing to God it makes for man’s salvation.

Hugo has put perhaps his most lucid exposition of the three grades of knowledge into the first of his Nineteen Sermons on Ecclesiastes.[492] He is fond of certain numbers, and here his thought revolves in categories of the number three. Solomon composed three works, the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles. In the first, he addresses his son paternally, admonishing him to pursue virtue and shun vice; in the second, he shows the grown man that nothing in the world is stable; finally, in Canticles, he brings the consummate one, who has spurned the world, to the Bridegroom’s arms.

[Pg 359]“Three are the modes of cognition (visiones) belonging to the rational soul: cogitation, meditation, contemplation. It is cogitation when the mind is touched with the ideas of things, and the thing itself is by its image presented suddenly, either entering the mind through sense or rising from memory. Meditation is the assiduous and sagacious revision of cogitation, and strives to explain the involved, and penetrate the hidden. Contemplation is the mind’s perspicacious and free attention, diffused everywhere throughout the range of whatever may be explored. There is this difference between meditation and contemplation: meditation relates always to things hidden from our intelligence; contemplation relates to things made manifest, either according to their nature or our capacity. Meditation always is occupied with some one matter to be investigated; contemplation spreads abroad for the comprehending of many things, even the universe. Thus meditation is a certain inquisitive power of the mind, sagaciously striving to look into the obscure and unravel the perplexed. Contemplation is that acumen of intelligence which, keeping all things open to view, comprehends all with clear vision. Thus contemplation has what meditation seeks.

“There are two kinds of contemplation: the first is for beginners, and considers creatures; the kind which comes later, belongs to the perfect, and contemplates the Creator. In the Proverbs, Solomon proceeds as through meditation. In Ecclesiastes he ascends to the first grade of contemplation. In the Song of Songs he transports himself to the final grade. In meditation there is a wrestling of ignorance with knowledge; and the light of truth gleams as in a fog of error. So fire is kindled with difficulty in a heap of green wood; but then fanned with stronger breath, the flame burns higher, and we see volumes of smoke rolling up, with flame flashing through. Little by little the damp is exhausted, and the leaping fire dispels the smoke. Then victrix flamma darting through the heap of crackling wood, springs from branch to branch, and with lambent grasp catches upon every twig; nor does it rest until it penetrates everywhere and draws into itself all that it finds which is not flame. At length the whole combustible material is purged of its own nature and passes into the similitude and property of fire; then the din is hushed, and the voracious fire having subdued all, and brought all into its own likeness, composes itself to a high peace and silence, finding nothing more that is alien or opposed to itself. First there was fire with flame and smoke; then fire with flame, without smoke; and at last pure fire with neither flame nor smoke.”

So the victrix flamma achieves the three stages of spiritual insight, fighting its way through the smoke of[Pg 360] cogitation, through the smoke and flame of meditation, and at last through the flame of creature contemplation, to the high peace of God, where all is love’s ardent vision, without flame or smoke. It is thus through the grades of knowledge that the soul reaches at last that fulness of intelligence which may be made perfect and inflamed with love, in the contemplation of God. All knowledge is good according to its grade; only let it always lead on to God, and with humility. Hugo makes his principles clear at the opening of his commentary on the Celestial Hierarchy of Dionysius.[493]

The Jews seek a sign, and the Greeks wisdom. There was a certain wisdom which seemed such to them who knew not the true wisdom. The world found it, and began to be puffed up, thinking itself great in this. Confiding in its wisdom, it presumed, and boasted that it would attain the highest wisdom.... And it made itself a ladder of the face of the creation, shining toward the invisible things of the Creator.... Then those things which were seen were known, and there were other things which were not known; and through those which were manifest they expected to reach those which were hidden; and they stumbled and fell into the falsehoods of their own imaginings.... So God made foolish the wisdom of this world; and He pointed out another wisdom, which seemed foolishness, and was not. For it preached Christ crucified, in order that truth might be sought in humility. But the world despised it, wishing to contemplate the works of God, which He had made to be marvelled at, and it did not wish to venerate what He had set for imitation. Neither did it look to its own disease, and seek a medicine with piety; but presuming on a false health, it gave itself over with vain curiosity to the study of alien matters.”

This study made the wisdom of the world, whereby it devised the arts and sciences which we still learn. But the world in its pride did not read aright the great book of nature. It had not the knowledge of the true Exemplar, for the sanitation of its inner vision, to wit, the flesh of the eternal Word in the humanity of Jesus.

“There were two images (simulacra) set for man, in which he might perceive the unseen: one consisting of nature, the other of grace. The former image was the face of this world; the latter[Pg 361] was the humanity of the Word. And God is shown in both, but He is not understood in both; since the appearance of nature discloses the artificer, but cannot illuminate the eyes of him who contemplates it.”

Hugo then classifies the sciences in the usual Aristotelian way, and shows that Christian theology is the end of all philosophy. The first part of philosophia theorica is mathematics, which speculates as to the visible forms of visible things. The second is physics, which scrutinizes the invisible causes of visible things. The third, theology, alone contemplates invisible substances and their invisible natures. Herein is a certain progression; and the mind mounts to knowledge of the true. Through the visible forms of visible things, it comes to invisible causes of visible things; and through the invisible causes of visible things, it ascends to invisible substances, and to knowing their natures. This is the summit of philosophy and the perfection of truth. In this, as already said, the wise of this world were made foolish; because proceeding by the natural document alone, making account only of the elements and appearance of the world, they missed the instructive instances of Grace: which in spite of humble guise afford the clearer insight into truth.

This is Hugo’s scheme of knowledge; it begins with cogitatio, then proceeds through meditatio to contemplatio of the creature world, and finally of the Creator. The arts and sciences, as well as the face of nature, afford a simulacrum of the unseen Power; but all this knowledge by itself will not bring man to the perfect knowledge of God. For this he needs the exemplaria of Grace, shown through the incarnation of the Word. Only by virtue of this added means, may man attain to perfect contemplation of the truth of God. That end and final summit is beyond reason’s reach; but the attainment of rational knowledge makes part of the path thither. Keen as was Hugo’s intellectual nature, his interest in reason was coupled with a deeper interest in that which reason might neither include nor understand. The intellect does not include the emotional and immediately desiderative elements of human nature; neither can it comprehend the infinite which is God; and[Pg 362] Hugo drew toward God not only through his intellect, but likewise through his desiderative nature, with its yearnings of religious love. That love with him was rational, since its object satisfied his mind as far as his mind could comprehend it.

So Hugo’s intellectual interests were connected with the emotional side of human nature, and also led up to what transcended reason. Thus they led to what was a mystery because too great for human reason, and they included that which also was somewhat of a mystery to reason because lying partly outside its sphere. Hugo is an instance of the intellectual nature which will not rest in reason’s province, but feels equally impelled to find expression for matters that either exceed the mind, or do not altogether belong to it. Such an intellect is impelled to formulate its convictions in regard to these; its negative conviction that it cannot comprehend them, and why it cannot; and its more positive conviction of their value—of the absolute worth of God, and of man’s need of Him, and of the love and fear by which men may come close to Him, or avoid His wrath.

What Hugo has had to say as to cogitation, meditation, and contemplation, represents his analysis of the stages by which a sufficing sense may be reached of the Creator and His world of creature-kind. In this final wisdom and ardour of contemplation, both human reason and human love have part. The intellect advances along its lines, considering the world, and drawing inferences as to the unseen Being who created and sustains it. Mind’s unaided power will not reach. But by the grace of God, supremely manifested in the Incarnation, the man is humbled, and his heart is touched and drawn to love the power of the divine pity and humility. The lesson of the Incarnation and its guiding grace, emboldens the heart and enlightens the mind; and the man’s faculties are strengthened and uplifted to the contemplation of God, wherein the mind is satisfied and the heart at rest.

We have here the elements of piety, intellectual and devotional. Hugo is an example of their union; they also preserve their equal weight in Aquinas. But because Hugo emphasizes the limitations of the intellect, and so ardently[Pg 363] recognizes the heart’s yearning and immediacy of apperception, he is what is styled a mystic; a term which we are now in a position to consider, and to some extent exchange for other phrases of more definite significance.[494]

Quite to avoid the term is not possible, inasmuch as the conception certainly includes what is mysterious because unknowable through reason. For it includes a sense of the supreme, a sense of God, who is too great for human reason to comprehend, and therefore a mystery. And it includes a yearning toward God, the desire of Him, and the feeling of love. The last is also mysterious, in that it has not exclusive part with reason, but springs as well from feeling. Yet the essence or nature of this spirit of piety which we would analyse, consists in consciousness of the reality of the object of its yearning or devotion. Not altogether through induction or deduction, but with an irrational immediacy of conviction, it feels and knows its object. In place of the knowledge which is mediated through rational processes, is substituted a conviction upheld by yearning, love’s conviction indeed, of the reality and presence of that which is all the greater and more worthy because it baffles reason. And the final goal attainable by this mystic love is, even as the goal of other love, union with the Beloved.

The mystic spirit is an essential part of all piety or religion, which relates always and forever to the rationally unknown, and therefore mysterious. Without a consciousness of mystery, there can be neither piety nor religion. Nor can there be piety without some devotion to God, nor the deepest and most ardent forms of piety, without fervent love of God. This devotion and this love supply strength of conviction, creating a realness of communion with the divine, and an assurance of the soul’s rest and peace therein. But that the intellect has part, Hugo abundantly demonstrates. One must have perceptions, and thought’s severest wrestlings—cogitatio and meditatio—before reaching that first stage of wide and sure intelligence, which relates[Pg 364] to the creature world, and affords a broad basis of assurance, whence at last the soul shall spring to God. Intellectual perceptions and rational knowledge, and all the mind’s puttings together of its data in inductions and deductions and constructions, form a basis for contemplation, and yield material upon which the emotional side of human nature may exercise itself in yearning and devotion. Herein the constructive imagination works; which is intellectual faculty illuminated and impelled by the emotions.

This spirit actualizes itself in the power and scope of its resultant conviction, by which it makes real to itself the qualities, attributes, and actions of its object, God, and the nature of man’s relationship or union with the divine. In its final energy, when only partly conscious of its intellectual inductions, it discards syllogisms, quite dissatisfied with their devious and hesitating approach. Instead, by the power of love, it springs directly to its God. Nevertheless the soul which feels the inadequacy of reason even to voice the soul’s desires, will seek means of expression wherein reason still will play a submerged part. The soul is seeking to express what is not altogether expressible in direct and rational statement. It seeks adumbrations, partial unveilings of its sentiments, which shall perhaps make up in warmth of colour what they lack in definiteness of line. In fine, it seeks symbols. Such symbolism must be large and elastic, in order to shadow forth the soul’s relations with the Infinite; it must also be capable of carrying passion, that it may satisfy the soul’s craving to give voice to its great love.

In Greek thought as well as in the Hellenizing Judaism of a Philo, symbolism, or more specifically speaking, allegorical interpretation, was obviously apologetic, seeking to cloud in naturalistic interpretations the doings of the rather over-human gods of Greece.[495] But it sprang also from the unresting need of man to find expression for that sense of things which will not fit definite statement. This was the need which became creative, and of necessity fancifully creative, with Plato. Though he would have nothing to do with falsifying apologetics, all the more he felt the need of allegories, to suggest what his dialectic could not formulate.[Pg 365] In the early times of the Church militant of Christ, allegorical interpretation was exploited to defend the Faith; in the later patristic period, the Faith had so far triumphed, that allegory as a sword of defence and attack might be sheathed, or just allowed to glitter now and then half-drawn. But piety’s other need, with increasing energy, compelled the use of symbols and articulate allegory to express the directly inexpressible. Thereafter through the Middle Ages, while the use of allegory as a defence against the Gentiles slumbered, so much more the other need of it, and the sense of the universal symbolism of material things, filled the minds of men; and in age-long answer to this need, allegory, symbolism, became part of the very spirit of the mediaeval time.

Thus it became the universal vehicle of pious expression: it may be said almost to have co-extended with all mediaeval piety. It was ardently loving, as with St. Bernard; it might be filled with scarlet passion, as with Mechthild of Magdeburg; or it might be used in the self-conscious, and yet inspired vision-pictures of Hildegard of Bingen. And indeed with almost any mediaeval man or woman, it might keep talking, as a way of speech, obtrusively, conventionally, ad nauseam. For indeed in treatise after treatise even of the better men, allegory seems on the one hand to become very foolish and perverse, banal, intolerably talking on and on beyond the point; or again we sense its mechanism, hear the creaking of its jaws, while no living voice emerges,—and we suspect that the mystery of life, if it may not be compassed by direct statement, also lies deeper than allegorical conventions.

Hugo’s great De sacramentis showed the equipoise of intellectual and pietistic interests in him, and the Platonic quality of his mind’s sure sense of the reality of the supersensual.[496] Other treatises of his show his yearning piety, and the Augustinian quality of his soul, “made toward thee, and unquiet till it rests in thee.” The De arca Noe morali,[497] that is to say, the Ark of Noah viewed in its moral significance, is charming in its spiritual refinement, and interesting in its[Pg 366] catholic intellectual reflections. The Prologue presents a situation:

“As I was sitting once among the brethren, and they were asking questions, and I replying, and many matters had been cited and adduced, it came about that all of us at once began to marvel vehemently at the unstableness and disquiet of the human heart; and we began to sigh. Then they pleaded with me that I would show them the cause of such whirlings of thought in the human heart; and they besought me to set forth by what art or exercise of discipline this evil might be removed. I indeed wished to satisfy my brethren, so far as God might aid me, and untie the knot of their questions, both by authority and by argument. I knew it would please them most if I should compose my matter to read to them at table.

“It was my plan to show first whence arise such violent changes in man’s heart, and then how the mind may be led to keep itself in stable peace. And although I had no doubt that this is the proper work of grace, rather than of human labour, nevertheless I know that God wishes us to co-operate. Besides it is well to know the magnitude of our weakness and the mode of its repairing, since so much the deeper will be our gratitude.

“The first man was so created, that if he had not sinned, he would always have beheld in present contemplation his Creator’s face, and by always seeing Him, would have loved Him always, and, by loving, would always have clung close to Him, and by clinging to Him who was eternal, would have possessed life without end. Evidently the one true good of man was perfect knowledge of his Creator. But he was driven from the face of the Lord, since for his sin he was struck with the blindness of ignorance, and passed from that intimate light of contemplation; and he inclined his mind to earthly desires, as he began to forget the sweetness of the divine. Thus he was made a wanderer and fugitive over the earth. A wanderer indeed, because of disordered concupiscence; and a fugitive, through guilty conscience, which feels every man’s hand against it. For every temptation will overcome the man who has lost God’s aid.

“So man’s heart which had been kept secure by divine love, and one by loving one, afterwards began to flow here and there through earthly desires. For the mind which knows not to love its true good, is never stable and never rests. Hence restlessness, and ceaseless labour, and disquiet, until the man turns and adheres to Him. The sick heart wavers and quivers; the cause of its disease is love of the world; the remedy, the love of God.”

Hugo’s object is to give rest to the restless heart, by directing its love to God. One still bears in mind his three[Pg 367] plains of knowledge, forming perhaps the three stages of ascent, at the top of which is found the knowledge that turns to divine contemplation and love. There may be a direct and simple love of God for simple souls; but for the man of mind, knowledge precedes love.

“In two ways God dwells in the human heart, to wit, through knowledge and through love; yet the dwelling is one, since every one who knows Him, loves, and no one can love without knowing. Knowledge through cognition of the Faith erects the structure; love through virtue, paints the edifice with colour.”[498]

Then make a habitation for God in thy heart. This is the great matter, and indeed all: for this, Scripture exists, and the world was made, and God became flesh, through His humility making man sublime. The Ark of Noah is the type of this spiritual edifice, as it is also the type of the Church.

The piety and allegory of this work rise as from a basis of knowledge. The allegory indeed is drawn out and out, until it seems to become sheer circumlocution. This was the mediaeval way, and Hugo’s too, alas! We will not follow further in this treatise, nor take up his De arca Noe mystica,[499] which carries out into still further detail the symbolism of the Ark, and applies it to the Church and the people of God. Hugo has also left a colloquy between man and his soul on the true love, which lies in spiritual meditation.[500] But it is clear that the reaches of Hugo’s yearning are still grounded in intellectual considerations, though these may be no longer present in the mind of him whose consciousness is transformed to love.

One may discern the same progression, from painful thought to surer contemplation, and thence to the heart’s devoted communion, in him whom we have called the Thor and Loki of the Church. No twelfth-century soul loved God more zealously than St. Bernard. He was not strong in abstract reasoning. His mind needed the compulsion of[Pg 368] the passions to move it to sublime conclusions. Commonly he is dubbed a mystic. But his piety and love of God poise themselves on a basis of consideration before springing to soar on other wings. In his De consideratione,[501] Bernard explains that word in the sense given by Hugo to meditatio, while he uses contemplatio very much as Hugo does. It applies to things that have become certain to the mind, while “consideratio is busy investigating. In this sense contemplatio may be defined as the true and certain intuition of the mind (intuitus animi) regarding anything, or the sure apprehension of the true: while consideratio is thought intently searching, or the mind’s endeavour to track out the true.”[502]

Contemplatio, even though it forget itself in ecstasy, must be based on prior consideration; then it may take wings of its own, or rather (with orthodox Hugo and Bernard) wings of grace, and fly to the bosom of its God. This flight is the immediacy of conviction and the ecstasy which follows. One may even perceive the thinking going on during the soul’s outpour of love. For the mind still supports the soul’s ardour with reasonings, original or borrowed, as appears in the second sermon of that long series preached by Bernard on Canticles to his own spiritual élite of Clairvaux.[503] The saintly orator is yearning, yearning for Christ Himself; he will have naught of Moses or Isaiah; nor does he desire dreams, or care for angels’ visits: ipse, ipse me osculetur, cries his soul in the words of Canticles—let Him kiss me. The phrasing seems symbolical; but the yearning is direct, and at least rhetorically overmastering. The emotion is justified by its reasons. They lie in the personality of Christ and Bernard’s love of Him, rising from all his knowledge of Him, even from his experience of Jesus’ whisperings to the soul. He knows how vastly Jesus surpasses the human prophets who prefigured or foretold Him: ipsos longe superat Jesus meus—the word meus is love’s very articulation. The orator cries: “Listen! Let the kissing[Pg 369] mouth be the Word assuming flesh; and the mouth kissed be the flesh which is assumed; then the kiss which is consummated between them is the persona compacted of the two, to wit, the mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

This identical allegory goes back to Origen’s Commentary on Canticles. Bernard has kindled it with an intimate love of Jesus, which is not Origen’s. But the thought explains and justifies Bernard’s desire to be kissed by the kiss of His mouth, and so to be infolded in the divine love which “gave His only-begotten Son,” and also became flesh. Os osculans signifies the Incarnation: one realizes the emotional power which that saving thought would take through such a metaphor. At the end of his sermon, Bernard sums up the conclusion, so that his hearers may carry it away:

“It is plain that this holy kiss was a grace needed by the world, to give faith to the weak, and satisfy the desire of the perfect. The kiss itself is none other than the mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns God, per omnia saecula saeculorum, Amen.”



There is small propriety in speaking of these men of the first half of the twelfth century as Platonists or Aristotelians; nor is there great interest in trying to find in Plato or Aristotle or Plotinus the specific origin of any of their thoughts. They were apt to draw on the source nearest and most convenient; and one must remember that their immediate philosophic antecedents were not the distinct systems of Plato and Aristotle and Plotinus, but rather the late pagan eras of eclecticism, followed by that strongly motived syntheticism of the Church Fathers which selected whatever might accord with their Christian scheme. So Abaelard must not be called an Aristotelian. Neither he nor his contemporaries knew what an Aristotelian was, and when they called Abaelard Peripateticus, they meant one skilled in the logic which was derived from the simpler treatises of Aristotle’s Organon. Nor will we call Hugo a[Pg 370] Platonist, in spite of his fine affinities with Plato; for many of Hugo’s thoughts, his classification of the sciences for example, pointed back to Aristotle.

Abaelard, Hugo, St. Bernard suggest the triangulation of the epoch’s intellectual interests. Peter Lombard, somewhat their junior, presents its compend of accepted and partly digested theology. He took his method from Abaelard, and drew whole chapters of his work from Hugo; but his great source, which was also theirs, was Augustine. The Lombard was, and was to be, a representative man; for his Sentences brought together the ultimate problems which exercised the minds of the men of his time and after.

The early and central decades of the twelfth century offer other persons who may serve to round out our general notion of the character of the intellectual interests which occupied the period before the rediscovery of Aristotle, that is, of the substantial Aristotelian encyclopaedia of knowledge. Among such Adelard of Bath (England) was somewhat older than Abaelard. His keen pursuit of knowledge made him one of its early pilgrims to Spain and Greece. He compiled a book of Quaestiones naturales, and another called De eodem et diverso,[504] in which he struggled with the problem of universals, and with palpable problems of psychology. His cosmology shows a genial culling from the Timaeus fragment of Plato, and such other bits of Greek philosophy as he had access to.

Adelard was influenced by the views of men who taught or studied at Chartres. Bernard of Chartres, the first of the great Chartrian teachers of the early twelfth century,[505] wrote on Porphyry, and after his death was called by John of Salisbury perfectissimus inter Platonicos saeculi nostri. He was one of those extreme realists whose teachings might bear pantheistic fruit in his disciples; he had also a Platonistic imagination, leading him to see in Nature a living organism. Bernard’s younger brother, Thierry, also called of Chartres, extended his range of studies, and compiled numerous works on natural knowledge, indicating his wide reading and receptive nature. His realism brought him very close to pantheism,[Pg 371] which indeed flowered poetically in his admirer or pupil, Bernard Silvestris of Tours.

If we should analyze the contents of the latter’s De mundi universitate, it might be necessary to affirm that the author was a dualistic thinker, in that he recognized two first principles, God and matter; and also that he was a pantheist, because of the way in which he sees in God the source of Nature: “This mind (nous) of the supreme God is soul (intellectus), and from its divinity Nature is born.”[506] One should not, however, drive the heterogeneous thoughts of these twelfth-century people to their opposite conclusions. A moderate degree of historical insight should prevent our interpreting their gleanings from the past by formulas of our own greater knowledge. Doubtless their books—Hugo’s as well as Thierry’s and Bernard Silvester’s—have enough of contradiction if we will probe for it with a spirit not their own. But if we will see with their eyes and perceive with their feelings, we shall find ourselves resting with each of them in some unity of personal temperament; and that, rather than any half-borrowed thought, is Hugo or Thierry or Bernard Silvestris. Silvester’s book, De mundi universitate, sive Megacosmus et microcosmus, is a half poem, like Boëthius’s De consolatione and a number of mediaeval productions to which there has been occasion to allude. It is fruitless to dissect such a composite of prose and verse. In it Natura speaks to Nous, and then Nous to Natura; the four elements come into play, and nine hierarchies of angels; the stars in their firmaments, and the genesis of things on earth; Physics and her daughters, Theorica and Practica, and all the figures of Greek mythology. An analysis of such a book will turn it to nonsense, and destroy the breath of that twelfth-century temperament which loved to gather driftwood from the wreckage of the ancient world of thought. Thus perhaps they expected to draw to themselves, even from the pagan flotsam, some congenial explanation of the universe and man.

[Pg 372]A far more acute thinker was Gilbert de la Porrée,[507] who taught at Chartres for a number of years, before advancing upon Paris in 1141. He next became Bishop of Poictiers, and died in 1154. Like Abaelard, he was primarily a logician, and occupied himself with the problem of universals, taking a position not so different from Abaelard’s. Like Abaelard also, Gilbert was brought to task before a council, in which St Bernard sought to be the guiding, scilicet, condemning spirit. But the condemnation was confined to certain sentences, which when cut from their context and presented in distorting isolation, the author willingly sacrificed to the flames. He refused, some time afterwards, to discuss his views privately with the Abbot of Clairvaux, saying that the latter was too inexpert a theologian to understand them. Gilbert’s most famous work, De sex principiis, attempted to complete the last six of Aristotle’s ten Categories, which the philosopher had treated cursorily; it was almost to rival the work of the Stagirite in authority, for instance, with Albertus Magnus, who wrote a Commentary upon it in the same spirit with which he commented on the logical treatises of the Organon.

In the same year with Gilbert (1154) died a man of different mental tendencies, William of Conches,[508] who likewise had been a pupil of Bernard of Chartres. He was for a time the tutor of Henry Plantagenet. William was interested in natural knowledge, and something of a humanist. He made a Commentary on the Timaeus, and wrote various works on the philosophy of Nature, in which he wavered around an atomistic explanation of the world, yet held fast to the Biblical Creation, to save his orthodoxy. He also pursued the study of medicine, which was a specialty at Chartres; through the treatises of Constantinus Africanus[509] he had some knowledge of the pathological theories of Galen and Hippocrates. For his interest in physical knowledge,[Pg 373] he may be regarded as a precursor of Roger Bacon. On the other hand, he was a humanist in his strife against those “Cornificiani” who would know no more Latin than was needful;[510] and he compiled from the pagan moralists a sort of Summa. It is called, in fact, a Summa moralium philosophorum (an interesting title, connecting it with the Christian Summae sententiarum).[511] It treats the virtues under the head of de honesto; and under that of de utile, reviews the other good things of mind, body, and estate. It also discusses whether there may be a conflict between the honestum and the utile.

These men of the first half of the twelfth century lived before the new revealing of the Aristotelian philosophy and natural knowledge coming at the century’s close. Their muster is finally completed by two younger men, the one an Englishman and the other a Lowlander. The youthful years of both synchronize with the old age of the men of whom we have been speaking. For John of Salisbury was born not far from the year 1115, and died in 1180; and Alanus de Insulis (Lille) was probably born in 1128, and lived to the beginning of the next century. They are spiritually connected with the older men because they were taught by them, and because they had small share in the coming encyclopaedic knowledge. But they close the group: John of Salisbury closing it by virtue of his critical estimate of its achievement; Alanus by virtue of his final rehandling of the body of intellectual data at its disposal, to which he may have made some slight addition. Abaelard knew and used the simpler treatises of the Aristotelian Organon of logic. He had not studied the Analytics and the Topics, and of course was unacquainted with the body of Aristotle’s philosophy outside of logic. John of Salisbury and Alanus know the entire Organon; but neither one nor the other knows the rest of Aristotle, which Alexander of Hales was the first to make large use of.

John of Salisbury, Little John, Johannes Parvus, as he was called, was the best classical scholar of his time.[512] His[Pg 374] was an acute and active intellect, which never tired of hearing and weighing the views of other men. He was, moreover, a man of large experience, travelling much, and listening to all the teachers prominent in his youth. Also he was active in affairs, being at one time secretary to Thibaut, Archbishop of Canterbury, and then the intimate of Becket, of Henry II., and Pope Adrian IV.! A finished scholar, who knew not one thing, but whatever might be known, and was enlightened by the training of the world, Little John critically estimates the learning and philosophy of the men he learns from. Having always an independent point of view he makes acute remarks upon it all, and admirable contributions to the sum of current thought. But chiefly he seems to us as one who looks with even eye upon whatsoever comes within his vision. He knows the weaknesses of men and the limitations of branches of discipline; knows, for instance, that dialectic is sterile by itself, but efficient as an aid to other disciplines. So, as to logic, John keeps his own point of view, and is always reasonable and practical.[513] Likewise, with open mind, he considers what there may be in the alleged science of the Mathematicians, i.e. diviners and astrologers. He uses such phrases as “probabilia quidem sunt haec ... sed tamen the venom lies under the honey!” For this science sets a fatal necessity on things, and would even intrude into the knowledge of the future reserved for God’s majesty. And as John considers the order of events to come, and the diviner’s art, cornua succrescunt—the horns of more than one dilemma grow.[514]

John knew more than any man of the ancient philosophies.[515] For himself, of course he loved knowledge; yet he would not dissever it from its value in the art of living. “Wisdom indeed is a fountain, from which pour forth the streams which water the whole earth; they fill not alone the garden of delights of the divine page, but flow on to the Gentiles, and do not altogether fail even the Ethiopians.... It is[Pg 375] certain that the faithful and wise reader, who from love keeps learning’s watch, escapes vice and draws near to life.”[516] Philosophy is the moderatrix omnium (a favourite phrase with John); the true philosopher, as Plato says, is a lover of God: and so philosophia is amor divinitatis. Its precept is to love God with all our strength, and our neighbour as ourselves: “He who by philosophizing has reached charitas, has attained philosophy’s true end.”[517] John goes on to show how deeply they err who think philosophy is but a thing of words and arguments: many of those who multiply words, by so doing burden the mind. Virtue inseparably accompanies wisdom; this is John’s sum of the matter. Clearly he is not always, or commonly, wrestling with ultimate metaphysical problems; he busies himself, acutely but not metaphysically, with the wisdom of life. He too can use the language of piety and contemplation. In the sixth chapter of his De septem septenis (The seven Sevens) he gives the seven grades of contemplation—meditatio, soliloquium, circumspectio, ascensio, revelatio, emissio, inspiratio.[518] He presents the matter succinctly, thus perhaps giving clarity to current pietistic phraseology.

Alanus de Insulis was a man of renown in his life-time, and after his death won the title of Doctor Universalis. Although the fame of scholar, philosopher, theologian, poet, may have uplifted him during his years of strength, he died a monk at Citeaux, in the year 1202. Fame came justly to him, for he was learned in the antique literature, and a gifted Latin poet, while as thinker and theologian he made skilful and catholic use of his thorough knowledge of whatever the first half of the twelfth century had achieved in thought and system. Elsewhere he has been considered as a poet;[519] here we merely observe his position and accomplishment in matters of salvation and philosophy.[520]

Alanus possessed imagination, language, and a faculty of acute exposition. His sentences, especially his definitions,[Pg 376] are pithy, suggestive, and vivid. He projected much thought as well as fantasy into his poem, Anticlaudianus, and his cantafable, De planctu naturae. He showed himself a man of might, and insight too, in his Contra haereticos. His suggestive pithiness of diction lends interest to his encyclopaedia of definitions, Distinctiones dictionum theologicalium; and his keen power of reasoning succinctly from axiomatic premises is evinced in his De arte fidei catholicae.

The intellectual activities of Alanus fell in the latter decades of the twelfth century, when mediaeval thought seemed for the moment to be mending its nets, and preparing for a further cast in the new waters of Aristotelianism. Alanus is busy with what has already been won; he is unconscious of the new greater knowledge, which was preparing its revelations. He is not even a man of the transition from the lesser to the greater intellectual estate; but is rather a final compendium of the lesser. Himself no epoch-making reasoner, he uses the achievements of Abaelard and Hugo, of Gilbert de la Porrée and William of Conches, and others. Neither do his works unify and systematize the results of his studies. He is rather a re-phraser. Yet his refashioning is not a mere thing of words; it proceeds with the vitalizing power of the man’s plastic and creative temperament. One may speak of him as keen and acquisitive intellectually, and creative through his temperament.

Alanus shows a catholic receptivity for all the mingled strains of thought, Platonic, Aristotelian, Neo-Platonic and Pythagorean, which fed the labours of his predecessors. He has studied the older sources, the Timaeus fragment, also Apuleius and Boëthius of course. His chief blunder is his misconception of Aristotle as a logician and confuser of words (verborum turbator)—a phrase, perhaps, consciously used with poetic license. For he has made use of much that came originally from the Stagirite. Within his range of opportunity, Alanus was a universal reader, and his writings discover traces of the men of importance from Pseudo-Dionysius and Eriugena down to John of Salisbury and Gundissalinus.

These remarks may take the place of any specific presentation of Alanus’s work in logic, of his view of universals,[Pg 377] of his notions of physics, of nature, of matter and form, of man’s mind and body, and of the Triune Godhead.[521] In his cosmology, however, we may note his imaginatively original employment of the conception or personification of Nature. God is the Creator, and Nature is His creature, and His vice-regent or vicarious maker, working the generation and decay of things material and changeable.[522] This thought, imaginatively treated, makes a good part of the poetry of the De planctu and the Anticlaudianus. The conception with him is full of charming fantasy, and we look back through Bernardus Silvestris and other writers to Plato’s divine fooling in the Timaeus, not as the specific, but generic, origin of such imaginative views of the contents and generation of the world. Such imaginings were as fantasy to science, when compared with the solid and comprehensive consideration of the material world which was to come a few years after Alanus’s death through the encyclopaedic Aristotelian knowledge presented in the works of Alexander of Hales and Albertus Magnus.



[Pg 378]



Intellectually, the thirteenth century in western Europe is marked by three closely connected phenomena: the growth of Universities, the discovery and appropriation of Aristotle, and the activities of Dominicans and Franciscans. These movements were universal, in that the range of none of them was limited by racial or provincial boundaries. Yet a line may still be drawn between Italy, where law and medicine were cultivated, and the North, where theology with logic and metaphysics were supreme. Absorption in these subjects produced a common likeness in the intellectual processes of men in France, England, and Germany, whose writings were to be no longer markedly affected by racial idiosyncrasies. This was true of the logical controversy regarding universals, so prominent in the first part of the twelfth century. It was very true of the great intellectual movement of the later twelfth and the thirteenth centuries, to wit, the coming of Aristotle to dominance, in spite of the counter-currents of Platonic Augustinianism.

The men who followed the new knowledge had slight regard for ties of home, and travelled eagerly in search of learning. So, even as from far and wide those who could study Roman law came to Bologna, the study of theology and all that philosophy included drew men to Paris. Thither came the keen-minded from Italy and from England; from the Low Countries and from Germany; and from the many very different regions now covered by the name of France. Wherever born and of whatever race, the devotees of philosophy and theology at some period of their career reached[Pg 379] Paris, learned and taught there, and were affected by the universalizing influence of an international aggregate of scholarship. So had it been with Breton Abaelard, with German Hugo, and with Lombard Peter; so with English John, hight of Salisbury. And in the following times of culmination, Albertus Magnus comes in his maturity from Germany; and his marvellous pupil Thomas, born of noble Norman stock in southern Italy, follows his master, eventually to Paris. So Bonaventura of lowly mid-Italian birth likewise learns and teaches there; and that unique Englishman, Roger Bacon, and after him Duns Scotus. These few greatest names symbolize the centralizing of thought in the crowded and huddled lecture-rooms of the City on the Seine.

The origins of the great mediaeval Universities can scarcely be accommodated to simple statement. Their history is frequently obscure, and always intricate; and the selection of a specific date or factor as determining the inception, or distinctive development, of these mediaeval creations is likely to be but arbitrary. They had no antique prototype: nothing either in Athens or Rome ever resembled these corporations of masters and students, with their authoritative privileges, their fixed curriculum, and their grades of formally certified attainment. Even the Alexandria of the Ptolemies, with all the pedantry of its learned litterateurs and their minute study of the past, has nothing to offer like the scholastic obsequiousness of the mediaeval University, which sought to set upon one throne the antique philosophy and the Christian revelation, that it might with one and the same genuflection bow down before them both. It behoves us to advert to the conditions influencing the growth of Universities, and give a little space to those which were chief among them.

The energetic human advance distinguishing the twelfth century in western Europe exhibits among its most obvious phenomena an increased mobility in all classes of society, and a tendency to gather into larger communities and form strong corporate associations for profit or protection. New towns came into being, and old ones grew apace. Some of them in the north of Europe wrested their freedom from[Pg 380] feudal lords; and both in the north and south, municipalities attained a more complex organization, while within them groups of men with common interests formed themselves into powerful guilds. As strangers of all kinds—merchants, craftsmen, students—came and went, their need of protection became pressing, and was met in various ways.

No kind of men were more quickly touched by the new mobility than the thousands of youthful learners who desired to extend their knowledge, or, in some definite field, perfect their education. In the eleventh century, such would commonly have sought a monastery, near or far. In the twelfth and then in the thirteenth, they followed the human currents to the cities, where knowledge flourished as well as trade, and tolerable accommodation might be had for teachers and students. Certain towns, some for more, some for less, obvious reasons, became homes of study. Bologna, Paris, Oxford are the chief examples. Irnerius, famed as the founder of the systematic study of the Roman law, and Gratian, the equally famous orderer of the Canon law, taught or wrote at Bologna when the twelfth century was young. Their fame drew crowds of laymen and ecclesiastics, who desired to equip themselves for advancement through the business of the law, civil or ecclesiastical. At the same time, hundreds, which grew to thousands, were attracted to the Paris schools—the school of Notre Dame, where William of Champeaux held forth; the school of St. Victor, where he afterwards established himself, and where Hugo taught; and the school of St. Geneviève, where Abaelard lectured on dialectic and theology. These were palpable gatherings together of material for a University. What first brought masters and students to Oxford a few decades later is not so clear. But Oxford had been an important town long before a University lodged itself there.

In the twelfth century, citizenship scarcely protected one beyond the city walls. A man carried but little safety with him. Only an insignificant fraction of the students at Bologna, and of both masters and students at Paris and Oxford, were citizens of those towns. The rest had come from everywhere. Paris and Bologna held an utterly cosmopolitan, international, concourse of scholar-folk. And[Pg 381] these scholars, turbulent enough themselves, and dwelling in a turbulent foreign city, needed affiliation there, and protection and support. Organization was an obvious necessity, and if possible the erection of a civitas within a civitas, a University within a none too friendly town. This was the primal situation, and the primal need. Through somewhat different processes, and under different circumstances, these exigencies evoked a University in Bologna, Paris, and Oxford.[523]

In Italy, where the instincts of ancient Rome never were extinguished, where some urban life maintained itself through the early helpless mediaeval centuries, where during the same period an infantile humanism did not cease to stammer; where “grammar” was studied and taught by laymen, and the “ars dictaminis” practised men in the forms of legal instruments, it was but natural that the new intellectual energies of the twelfth century should address themselves to the study of the Roman law, which, although debased and barbarized, had never passed into desuetude. And inasmuch as abstract theology did not attract the Italian temperament or meet the conditions of papal politics in Italy, it was likewise natural that ecclesiastical energies should be directed to the equally useful and closely related canon law. Such studies with their practical ends could best be prosecuted at some civic centre. In the first part of the twelfth century, Irnerius lectured at Bologna upon the civil law; a generation later, Gratian published his Decretum there. The specific reasons inducing the former to open his lectures in that city are not known; but a large and thrifty town set at the meeting of the great roads from central Italy to the north and east, was an admirable place for a civil doctor and his audience, as the event proved. Gratian was a monk in a[Pg 382] Bologna convent, and may have listened to Irnerius. The publication of his Decretum from Bologna, by that time (cir. 1142) famous for jurisprudence, lent authority to this work, whose universal recognition was to enhance in turn Bologna’s reputation.

From the time of this inception of juristic studies, the talents of the doctors, and the city’s fame, drew a prodigious concourse of students from all the lands of western Europe. The Doctors of the Civil and Canon Laws organized themselves into one, and subsequently into two, Colleges. Apparently they had become an efficient association by the third quarter of the twelfth century. But the University of Bologna was to be constituted par excellence, not of one or more colleges of doctors, but of societies of students. The persons who came for legal instruction were not boys getting their first education in the Arts. They were men studying a profession, and among them were many individuals of wealth and consequence, holding perhaps civil or ecclesiastic office in the places whence they came. The vast majority had this in common, that they were foreigners, with no civil rights in Bologna. It behoved them to organize for their protection and mutual support, and for the furtherance of the purposes for which they had come. That a body of men in a foreign city should live under the law of their own home, or the law of their own making, did not appear extraordinary in the twelfth century. It was not so long since the principle that men carried the law of their home with them, had been widely recognized, and in all countries the clergy still lived under the law of the Church. The gains accruing from the presence of a great number of foreign students might induce the authorities of Bologna to permit them to organize as student guilds, and regulate their affairs by rules of their own, even as was done by other guilds in most Italian cities. At Bologna the power of Guelf and Ghibeline clubs, and of craftsmen’s guilds, rivalled that of the city magistrates.

There is some indirect evidence that these students first divided themselves into four Nationes. If so, the arrangement did not last. For by the middle of the thirteenth century they are found organized in two Universitates, or corporations, a Universitas Citramontanorum and a Universitas[Pg 383] Ultramontanorum; each under its own Rector. These two corporations of foreign students constituted the University. The Professors did not belong to them, and therefore were not members of the University. Indeed they fought against the recognition of this University of students, asserting that the students were but their pupils. But the students prevailed, strong in their numbers, and in the weapon which they did not hesitate to use, that of migration to another city, which cut off the incomes of the Professors and diminished the repute and revenue of Bologna. So great became the power of the student body, that it brought the Professors to complete subjection, paying them their salaries, regulating the time and mode of lecturing, and compelling them to swear obedience to the Rectors. The Professors protested, but submitted. To make good its domination over them, and its independence as against the city, the student University migrated to Arezzo in 1215 and to Padua in 1222.[524]

In origin as well as organization, the University of Paris differed from Bologna. It was the direct successor of the cathedral school of Notre Dame. This had risen to prominence under William of Champeaux. But Abaelard drew to Paris thousands of students for William’s hundreds (or at least hundreds for William’s tens); and Abaelard at the height of his popularity taught at the school of St. Geneviève, across the Seine. Therefore this school also, although fading out after Abaelard’s time, should be regarded as a causal predecessor of the Paris University. So, for that matter, should the neighbouring school of St. Victor, founded by the discomfited William; for its reputation under Hugo and Richard drew devout students from near and far, and augmented the scholastic fame of Paris.

It was both the privilege and duty of the Chancellor of Notre Dame to license competent Masters to open schools near the cathedral. In the course of time, these Masters formed an Association, and assumed the right to admit to[Pg 384] their Society the licentiates of the Chancellor, to wit, the new Masters who were about to begin to teach. In the decades following Abaelard’s death, the Masters who lectured in the vicinity of Notre Dame increased in number. They spread with their schools beyond the island, and taught in houses on the bridges. They were Masters, that is, teachers, in the Arts. As the twelfth century gave way to the thirteenth, interest in the Arts waned before the absorbing passion for metaphysical theology. This was a higher branch of study, for which the Arts had come to be looked on as a preparation. So the scholars of the schools of Arts became impatient to graduate, that is, to reach the grade of Master, in order to pass on to the higher study of theology. A result was that the course of study in the Arts was shortened, while Masters multiplied in number. Their Society seems to have become a definite and formal corporate body or guild, not later than the year 1175. Herein was the beginning of the Paris University. It had become a studium generale, like Bologna, because there were many Masters, and students from everywhere were admitted to study in their schools.

Gradually the University came to full corporate existence. From about 1210, written statutes exist, passed by the Society of Masters; at the same date a Bull of Innocent III. recognizes the Society as a Corporation. Then began a long struggle for supremacy, between the Masters and the Chancellor: it was the Chancellor’s function to grant the licence to become a Master; but it was the privilege of the Society to admit the licentiate to membership. The action of both being thus requisite, time alone could tell with whom the control eventually should rest. Was the self-governing University to prevail, or the Chancellor of the Cathedral? The former won the victory.

The Masters in Arts constituted par excellence the University, because they far outnumbered the Masters in the upper Faculties of Theology, Law, and Medicine. They were the dominant body; what they decided on, the other Faculties acquiesced in. These Masters in Arts, besides being numerous, were young, not older than the law students at Bologna. With their still younger students,[525] they made[Pg 385] the bulk of the entire University, and were the persons who most needed protection in their lawful or unlawful conduct. At some indeterminate period they divided themselves into the four Nationes, French, Normans, Picards, and English. They voted by Nationes in their meetings; but from a period apparently as early as their organization, a Rector was elected for all four Nationes, and not one Rector for each. There were, however, occasional schisms or failures to agree. It was to be the fortune of the Rector thus elected to supplant the Chancellor of the Cathedral as the real head of the University.

The vastly greater number of the Masters in Arts were actually students in the higher Faculties of Theology, Law,[526] or Medicine, for which graduation in the Arts was the ordinary prerequisite. The Masters or Doctors of these three higher Faculties, at least from the year 1213, determined the qualifications of candidates in their departments. Nevertheless the Rector of the Faculty of Arts continued his advance toward the headship of the whole University. The oath taken by the Bachelors in the Arts, of obedience to that Faculty and its Rector, was strengthened in 1256, so as to bind the oath-taker so long as he should continue a member of the University.

The University had not obtained its privileges without insistence, nor without the protest of action as well as word. Its first charter of privileges from the king was granted in 1200, upon its protests against the conduct of the Provost of Paris in attacking riotous students. Next, in combating the jurisdiction of the Chancellor, it obtained privileges from the Pope; and in 1229, upon failure to obtain redress for an attack from the Provost’s soldiers, ordered by the queen, Blanche of Castile, the University dispersed. Thus it resorted to the weapon by which the University of Bologna had won the confirmation of its rights. In the year 1231 the great Papal Bull, Parens scientiarum, finally confirmed the Paris University in its contentions and demands: the right to suspend lectures was sanctioned, whenever satisfaction for outrage had been refused for fifteen days; likewise[Pg 386] the authority of the University to make statutes, and expel members for a breach of them. The Chancellor of Notre Dame and the Bishop of Paris were both constrained by the same Bull.

A different struggle still awaited the University, in which it was its good fortune not to be altogether successful; for it was contending against instruments of intellectual and spiritual renovation, to wit, the Mendicant Orders. The details are difficult to unravel at this distance of time. But the Dominicans and Franciscans, in the lifetime of their founders, established themselves in Paris, and opened schools of theology. Their Professors were licensed by the Chancellor, and yet seem to have been unwilling to fall in with the customs of the University, and, for example, cease from teaching and disperse, when it saw fit to do so. The doctors of the theological Faculty became suspicious, and opposed the admission of Mendicants to the theological Faculty. The struggle lasted thirty years, until the Dominicans obtained two chairs in that Faculty, and the Franciscans perhaps the same number, on terms which looked like a victory for the Orders, but in fact represented a compromise; for the Mendicant doctors in the end apparently submitted to the statutes of the University.[527]

The origin of Oxford University was different, and one may say more adventitious than that of Paris or Bologna. For Oxford was not the capital of a kingdom, nor is it known to have been an ancient seat of learning. The city was not even a bishop’s seat, a fact which had a marked effect upon the constitution of the University. The old town lay at the edge of Essex and Mercia, and its position early gave it importance politically, or rather strategically, and as a place of trade. How or whence came the nucleus of Masters and students that should grow into a University is unknown. An interesting hypothesis[528] is that it was a colony from Paris, shaken off by some academic or political disturbance. This surmise has been connected with the year 1167. Some evidence exists of a school having existed there before. Next comes a distinct statement from the year 1185, of the reading of a book before the[Pg 387] Masters and students.[529] After this date the references multiply. In 1209, one has a veritable “dispersion,” in protest against the hanging of some scholars. A charter from the papal legate in 1214 accords certain privileges, among others that a clerk arrested by the town should be surrendered on demand of the Bishop of Lincoln[530] or the Archdeacon, or the Chancellor, whom the Bishop shall set over the scholars. This document points to the beginning of the chancellorship. The title probably was copied from Paris; but in Oxford the office was to be totally different. The Paris Chancellor was primarily a functionary of a great cathedral, who naturally maintained its prerogatives against the encroachments of university privilege. But at Oxford there was no cathedral; the Chancellor was the head of the University, probably chosen from its Masters, and had chiefly its interests at heart.

Making allowance for this important difference in the Chancellor’s office, the development of the University closely resembled that of Paris. Its first extant statute, of the year 1252, prescribes that no one shall be licensed in Theology who has not previously graduated in the Arts. To the same year belongs a settlement of disputes between the Irish and northern scholars. The former were included in the Australes or southerners, one of the two Nationes composing the Faculty of Arts. The Australes included the natives of Ireland, Wales, and England south of the Trent; the other Natio, the Boreales, embraced the English and Scotch coming from north of that river. But the division into Nationes was less important than in the cosmopolitan University of Paris, and soon ceased to exist. The Faculty of Arts, however, continued even more dominant than at Paris. There was no serious quarrel with the Mendicant Orders, who established themselves at Oxford—the Dominicans in 1221, and the Franciscans three years later.

The curriculum of studies appears much the same at both Universities, and, as followed in the middle of the thirteenth century, may be thus summarized. For the lower degree of Bachelor of Arts, four or five years were[Pg 388] required; and three or four years more for the Master’s privileges. The course of study embraced grammar (Priscian), also rhetoric, and in logic the entire Organon of Aristotle, preceded by Porphyry’s Isagoge, and with the Sex principia of Gilbert de la Porrée added to the course. The mathematical branches of the Quadrivium also were required: arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy. And finally a goodly part of the substantial philosophy of Aristotle was studied, with considerable choice permitted to the student in his selection from the works of the philosopher. At Oxford he might choose between the Physics or the De coelo et mundo, or the De anima or the De animalibus. The Metaphysics and Ethics or Politics were also required before the Bachelor could be licensed as a Master.

In Theology the course of study was extremely lengthy, especially at Paris, where eight years made the minimum, and the degree of Doctor was not given before the candidate had reached the age of thirty-five. The chief subjects were Scripture and the Sentences of Peter Lombard. Besides which, the candidate had to approve himself in sermons and disputations. The latter might amount to a trial of nerve and endurance, as well as proficiency in learning, since the candidate was expected to militare in scholis, against a succession of opponents from six in the morning till six in the evening, with but an hour’s refreshment at noon.[531]

In spite of the many resemblances of Oxford to Paris in organization and curriculum, the intellectual tendencies of the two Universities were not altogether similar. At Paris, speculative theology, with metaphysics and other branches of “philosophy,” regarded as its adjuncts, were of absorbing interest. At Oxford, while the same matters were perhaps supreme, a closer scholarship in language or[Pg 389] philology was cultivated by Grosseteste, and his pupils, Adam of Marsh and Roger Bacon. The genius of observation was stirring there; and a natural science was coming into being, which was not to repose solely upon the authority of ancient books, but was to proceed by the way of observation and experiment. Yet Roger Bacon imposed upon both his philology and his natural science a certain ultimate purpose: that they should subserve the surer ascertainment of divine and saving truth, and thus still remain handmaids of theology, at least in theory.

The year 1200 may be taken to symbolize the middle of a period notable for the enlargement of knowledge. If one should take the time of this increase to extend fifty years on either side of the central point, one might say that the student of the year 1250 stood to his intellectual ancestor of the year 1150, as a man in the full possession and use of the Encyclopaedia Britannica would stand toward his father who had saved up the purchase money for the same. The most obvious cause of this was an increasing acquaintance with the productions of the so-called Arabian philosophy, and more especially with the works of Aristotle, first through translations from the Arabic, and then through translations from the Greek, which were made in order to obviate the insufficiency of the former.

It would need a long excursus to review the far from simple course of so-called Arabian thought, philosophic and religious. It begins in the East, and follows the setting sun. Even before the Hegira (622) the Arabs had rubbed up against the inhabitants of Syria, Christian in name, eastern or Hellenic in culture and proclivity. Then in a century or two, when the first impulsion of Mohammedan conquest was spent, the works of Aristotle and his later Greek commentators were translated into Arabic from Syrian versions, under the encouragement of the rulers of Bagdad. The Syrian versions, as we may imagine, were somewhat eclecticized and, more especially, Neo-Platonized. So it was not the pure Aristotle that passed on into Arabic philosophy, but the Aristotelian substance interpreted through later phases of Greek and Oriental thought. Still, Aristotle was[Pg 390] the great name, and his system furnished the nucleus of doctrine represented in this Peripatetic eclecticism which was to constitute, par excellence, Arabic philosophy. Also Greek mathematical and medical treatises were translated into Arabic from Syrian versions. El-Farabi (d. 950) and Avicenna (980-1036) were the chief glories of the Arabic philosophy of Bagdad. These two gifted men were commentators upon the works of the Stagirite, and authors of many interesting lucubrations of their own.[532] Arabian philosophy declined in the East with Avicenna’s death; but only to revive in Mussulman Spain. There its great representative was Averroes, whose life filled the last three quarters of the twelfth century. So great became his authority as an Aristotelian, with the Scholastics, that he received the name of Commentator, par excellence, even as Aristotle was par excellence, Philosophus. We need not consider the ideas of these men which were their own rather than the Stagirite’s; nor discuss the pietistic and fanatical sects among the Mussulmans, who either sought to harmonize Aristotle with the Koran, or disapproved of Greek philosophy. One readily perceives that in its task of acquisition and interpretation, with some independent thinking, and still more temperamental feeling, Arabic philosophy was the analogue of Christian scholasticism, of which it was, so to speak, the collateral ancestor.[533]

And in this wise. The Commentaries of Averroes, for example, were translated into Latin; and, throughout all the mediaeval centuries, the Commentary tended to supplant the work commented on, whether that work was Holy Scripture or a treatise of Aristotle. By the middle of the thirteenth century all the important works of Averroes had been translated into Latin, and he had many followers at Paris; and before then, from the College of Toledo, had come translations of the principal works of the other chief[Pg 391] Arabian philosophers. Of still greater importance for the Christian West was the work of Jews and Christians in Spain and Provence, in translating the Arabic versions of Aristotle into Latin, sometimes directly, and sometimes first into Hebrew and then into Latin. They attempted a literal translation, which, however, frequently failed to give the significance even of the Arabic version. These Arabic-Latin translations were of primary importance for the first introduction of Aristotle to the theologian philosophers of Christian Europe.

They were not to remain the only ones. In the twelfth century, a number of Western scholars made excursions into the East; and the capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204 enlarged their opportunities of studying the Greek language and philosophy. Attempts at direct translation into Latin began. One of the first translators was the sturdy Englishman, Robert Grosseteste. He was born in Suffolk about 1175; studied at Lincoln, then at Oxford, then at Paris, whence he returned to become Chancellor of the University of Oxford. He was made Bishop of Lincoln in 1236, and died seventeen years later. It was he who laid the foundation of the study of Greek at Oxford, and Roger Bacon was his pupil. But the most important and adequate translations were the work of two Dominicans, the Fleming, William of Moerbeke, and Henry of Brabant, who translated the works of Aristotle at the instance of Thomas Aquinas, possibly all working together at Rome, in 1263 and the years following. Aquinas recognized the inadequacy of the older translations, and based his own Aristotelian Commentaries upon these made by his collaborators, learned in the Greek tongue. The joint labour of translation and commentary seems to have been undertaken at the command of Pope Urban IV., who had renewed the former prohibitions put upon the use of Aristotle at the Paris University, in the older, shall we say, Averroistic versions.

If these prohibitions, which did not touch the logical treatises, were meant to be taken absolutely, such had been far from their effect. In 1210 and again in 1215, an interdict was put upon the naturalis philosophia and the methafisica of the Stagirite. It was not revoked, but rather[Pg 392] provisionally renewed, in 1231, until those works should be properly expurgated. A Commission was appointed which accomplished nothing; and the old interdict still hung in the air, unrescinded, yet ignored in practice. So Pope Urban referred to it as still effective—which it was not—in 1263. For Aristotle had been more and more thoroughly exploited in the Paris University, and by 1255 the Faculty of Arts formally placed his works upon the list of books to be studied and lectured upon.[534]

So the founding of Universities and the enlarged and surer knowledge brought by a study of the works of Aristotle were factors of power in the enormous intellectual advance which took place in the last half of the twelfth and the first half of the thirteenth century. Yet these factors could not have operated as they did, but for the antecedent intellectual development. Before the first half of the twelfth century had passed, the patristic material had been mastered, along with the current notions of antique philosophy, for the most part contained in it. Strengthened by this discipline, men were prepared for an extension and solidifying of their knowledge of the universe and man. Not only had they appropriated what the available sources had to offer, but, when we think of Abaelard and Hugo of St. Victor, we see that organic restatements had been made of what had been acquired. Still, men really knew too little. It is very well to exploit logic, and construct soul-satisfying schemes of cosmogonic symbolism, in order to represent the deepest truth of the material world. But the evident sense-realities of things are importunate. The minds even of spiritual men may, in time, crave explanation of this side of their consciousness. Abaelard seems to have been oblivious to natural phenomena; Hugo recognizes them in order to elicit their spiritual meaning; and Alanus de Insulis, a generation and more afterwards, takes a poet’s view of Nature. Other men had a more hard-headed interest in these phenomena; but they knew too little to attempt seriously to put them[Pg 393] together in some sense-rational scheme. The natural knowledge presented by the writings of the Church Fathers was little more than foolishness; the early schoolmen were their heirs. They observed a little for themselves; but very little.

There is an abysmal difference in the amount of natural knowledge exhibited by any writing of the twelfth century, and the works of Albertus Magnus belonging say to the middle of the thirteenth. The obvious reason of this is, that the latter had drawn upon the great volume of natural observation and hypothesis which for the preceding five hundred years had been actually closed to western Europe, and for five hundred years before that had been spiritually closed, because of the ineptitude of men to read therein. That volume was of course the encyclopaedic Natural Philosophy of Aristotle, completed, and treated in its ultimate causal relationships, by his Metaphysics. The Metaphysics, the First Philosophy, gave completeness and unity to the various provinces of natural knowledge expounded in his special treatises. For this reason, one finds in the works of Albertus a fund of natural knowledge solid with the solidity of the earth upon which one may plant his feet, and totally unlike the beautiful dreaming which drew its prototypal origins from the skyey mind of Plato.

The utilization of Aristotle’s philosophy by the Englishman, Alexander of Hales, who became a Franciscan near the year 1230, when he had already lectured for some thirty years at Paris; its far more elaborate and complete exposition by the very Teutonic Dominican, Albertus Magnus; and its even closer exposition and final incorporation within the sum of Christian doctrine, by Thomas,—this three-staged achievement is the great mediaeval instance of return to a genuine and chief source of Greek philosophy. These three schoolmen went back of the accounts and views of Greek philosophy contained in the writings of the Fathers. And in so doing they also went back of what was transmitted to the Middle Ages by Boëthius and other “transmitters.”[535]

[Pg 394]But the achievement of these schoolmen had other import. Their work represents the culmination of the third stage of mediaeval thought: that of systematic and organic restatement of the substance of the patristic and antique, with added elements; for there can be no organic restatement which does not hold and present something from him who achieves it. The result, attained at least by Thomas, was even more than this. Based upon the data and assumptions of scholasticism, it was a complete and final statement of the nature of God so far as that might be known, of the creature world, corporeal and incorporeal, and especially of man, his nature, his qualities, his relationship to God and final destiny. And herein, in its completeness, it was satisfying. The human mind in seeking explanation of the phenomena of its consciousness—presumably a reflex of the universe without—tends to seek a unity of explanation. A unity of explanation requires a completeness in the mental scheme of what is to be explained. Thoughtful men in the Middle Ages craved a scheme of life complete even in detail, which should educe life’s currents from a primal Godhead, and project them compacted, with none left straying or pointing nowhither, on toward universal fulfilment of His will.

Mediaeval thought had been preceded by whole views, entire schemes of life. Greek philosophy had held only such from the time when Thales said that water was the cause of all things. Plato’s view or scheme also was beautiful in its ideally pyramided structure, with the Idea of the Good at the apex. For Aristotle, knowledge was to be a syllogistic, or at least rational and jointed, encyclopaedia, rounded, unified, complete. After the pagan times, another whole scheme was that of Augustine, or again, that of Gregory the Great, though barbarized and hardened. Thus as patterns for their own thinking, mediaeval men knew only of entire schemes of thought. Their creed was, in every sense, a symbol of a completed scheme. And no mediaeval philosopher or theologian suspected himself of fragmentariness. Yet, in fact, at first they did but select and compile. After a century and more of this, they began to make organic statements of[Pg 395] parts of Christian doctrine. So we have Anselm’s Proslogium and Cur Deus Homo. Abaelard’s Theologia is far more complete; and so is Hugo’s De sacramentis, which offers an entire scheme, symbolical, sacramental, Christian, of God and the world and man. Hugo’s scheme might be ideally satisfying; but little concrete knowledge was represented in it. And when in the generations following his death, the co-ordinated Aristotelian encyclopaedia was brought to light and studied, then and thereafter any whole view of the world must take account of this new volume of argument and concrete knowledge. Alexander of Hales begins the labour of using it in a Christian Summa; Albertus makes prodigious advance, at least in the massing and preparation of the full Aristotelian material. Both try for whole views and comprehensive results. Then Thomas, most highly favoured in his master Albert, and gifted with a genius for acquisition and synthetic exposition, incorporates Aristotle, and Aristotle’s whole views, into the whole view presented by the Catholic Faith.

Thomas’s view, to be satisfying, had to be complete. It was knowledge united and amalgamated into a scheme of salvation. But a scheme of salvation is a chain, which can hold only in virtue of its completeness; break one link, and it snaps; leave one rivet loose, and it may also snap. A scheme of salvation must answer every problem put to it; a single unanswered problem may imperil it. The problem, for example, of God’s foreknowledge and predestination—that were indeed an open link, which Thomas will by no means leave unwelded. Hence for us modern men also, whose views of the universe are so shamelessly partial, leaving so much unanswered and so much unknown, the philosophy of Thomas may be restful, and charm by its completeness.

It is of great interest to observe the apparently unlikely agencies by which this new volume of knowledge was made generally available. In fact, it was the new knowledge and the demand for it that forced these agencies to fulfil the mission of exploiting it. For they had been created for other purposes, which they also fulfilled. Verily it happened that the chief means through which the new[Pg 396] knowledge was gained and published were the two new unmonastic Orders of monks, friars rather we may call them. Francis of Assisi was born in 1182 and died in 1226; Dominic was born in 1177 and died in 1221. The Orders of Minorites and Preachers were founded by them respectively in 1209 and 1215. Neither Order was founded to promote secular knowledge. Francis organized his Minorites that they might imitate the lives of Christ and His apostles, and preach repentance to the world. Dominic founded his Order to save souls through preaching: “For our Order is known from the beginning to have been instituted especially for preaching and the saving of souls, and our study (studium nostrum) should have as the chief object of its labour to enable us to be useful to our neighbours’ souls (ut proximorum animabus possimus utiles esse).”[536]

Within an apparent similarity of aim, each Order from the first reflected the temper of its founder; and the temper of Francis was not that of Dominic. For our purpose here, the difference may perhaps be symbolized by the Dominican maxim to preach the Gospel throughout the world equally by word and example (verbo pariter et exemplo); and the Franciscan maxim, to exhort all plus exemplo quam verbo.[537] A generation later St Bonaventura puts it thus: “Alii (scilicet, Praedicatores) principaliter intendunt speculationi ... et postea unctioni. Alii (scilicet, Minores) principaliter unctioni et postea speculationi.”[538]

It is safe to say that St Francis had no thought of secular studies; and as for the Order of Preachers, the Constitutions of 1228 forbade the Dominicans to study libros gentilium and seculares scientias. They are to study libros theologicos.[539] Francis, also, recognized the necessity of Scriptural study for those Minorites who were allowed to preach. In these views the early Franciscans and Dominicans were not peculiar; but rather represented the attitude of the older monastic Orders and of the stricter[Pg 397] secular clergy. The Gospel teaching of Christ had nothing to do with secular knowledge—explicitly. But the first centuries of the Church perceived that its defenders should be equipped with the Gentile learning, into which indeed they had been born. And while Francis was little of a theologian, and Dominic’s personality and career remain curiously obscure, one can safely say that both founders saw the need of sacred studies, and left no authoritative expression prohibiting their Orders from pursuing them to the best advantage for the cause of Christ. Yet we are not called on to suppose that either founder, in founding his Order for a definite purpose, foresaw all the means which after his death might be employed to attain that purpose—or some other!

The new Order cometh, the old rusteth. So has it commonly been with Monasticism. Undoubtedly these uncloistered Orders embodied novel principles of efficiency for the upholding of the Faith: their soldiers marched abroad evangelizing, and did not keep within their fastnesses of holiness. The Mendicant Orders were still young, and fresh from the inspiration of their founders. In those years they moved men’s hearts and drew them to the ideal which had been set for themselves. The result was, that in the first half of the thirteenth century the greater part of Christian religious energy girded its loins with the cords of Francis and Dominic.

At the commencement of that century, when the Orders of Minorites and Preachers were founded, the world of Western thought was prepared to make its own the new Aristotelian volume of knowledge and applied reason. Once that was opened and its contents perceived, the old Augustinian-Neo-Platonic ways of thinking could no longer proceed with their idealizing constructions, ignoring the pertinence of the new data and their possible application to such presentations of Christian doctrine as Hugo’s De sacramentis or the Lombard’s Sentences. The new knowledge, with its methods, was of such insistent import, that it had at once to be considered, and either invalidated by argument, or accepted, and perhaps corrected, and then accommodated within an enlarged Christian Philosophy.

[Pg 398]The spiritual force animating a new religious movement attracts the intellectual energies of the period, and furnishes them a new reality of purpose. This was true of early Christianity, and likewise true of the fresh religious impulse which proceeded from Francis’s energy of love and the organizing zeal of Dominic. From the very years of their foundation, 1209 and 1215, the rapid increase of the two Orders realized their founders’ visions of multitudes hurrying from among all nations to become Minorites or Preachers. And more and more their numbers were recruited from among the clergy. The lay members, important in the first years of Francis’s labours, were soon wellnigh submerged by the clericals; and the educated or learned element became predominant in the Franciscan Order as it was from the first in the Dominican.

Consider for an instant the spread of the former. In 1216, Cardinal Jacques of Vitry finds the Minorites in Lombardy, Tuscany, Apulia, and Sicily. The next year five thousand are reported to have assembled at the general meeting of the Order. Two years later Francis proceeds to carry out his plan of world-conquest by apportioning the Christian countries, and sending the brethren into France, Germany, Hungary, Spain, and throughout Italy.[540] It was a period when in the midst of general ignorance on the part of the clergy as well as laity, Universities (generalia studia) were rising in Italy, France, and England. The popes, Innocent III. (died 1216), Honorius III. (died 1221), and Gregory IX. (died 1241), were seeking to raise the education and even the learning of the Church. Their efforts found in the zeal of the Mendicants a ready response which was not forthcoming from the secular clergy. The Mendicants were zealous for the Faith, and loyal liegemen of the popes, who were their sustainers and the guarantors of their freedom from local ecclesiastical interference. What more fitting instruments could be found to advance the cause of sacred learning at the Universities, and enlarge it with the new knowledge which must either serve the Faith or be its enemy. If all this was not evident in the first decades of the century, it had become so by the middle of[Pg 399] it, when the Franciscan Bonaventura and the Dominicans Albertus and Thomas were the intellectual glories of the time. And thus, while the ardour of the new Orders drew to their ranks the learning and spiritual energy of the Church, the intellectual currents of the time caught up those same Brotherhoods, which had so entrusted their own salvation to the mission of saving other souls abroad in the world, where those currents flowed.

The Universities, above all the University par excellence, were in the hands of the secular clergy; and long and intricate is the story of their jealous endeavours to exclude the Mendicants from Professors’ chairs. The Dominicans established themselves at Paris in 1217, the Franciscans two years later. The former succeeded in obtaining one chair of theology at the University in 1229, and a second in 1231; and about the same time the Franciscans obtained their first chair, and filled it with Alexander of Hales. When he died an old man, fifteen years later, they wrote upon his tomb:

“Gloria Doctorum, decus et flos Philosophorum,
Auctor scriptorum vir Alexander variorum,”

closing the epitaph with the words: “primus Doctor eorum,” to wit, of the Minorites. He was the author of the first Summa theologiae, in the sense in which that term fits the work of Albert and Thomas. And there is no harm in repeating that this Summa of Alexander’s was the first work of a mediaeval schoolman in which use was made of the physics, metaphysics, and natural history, of Aristotle.[541] He died in 1245, when the Franciscans appear to have possessed two chairs at the University. One of them was filled in 1248 by Bonaventura, who nine years later was taken from his professorship, to become Minister-General of his Order. It was indeed only in this year 1257 that the University itself had been brought by papal injunctions formally to recognize as magister this most eloquent of the Franciscans, and the greatest of the Dominicans, Thomas Aquinas. The latter’s master, Albert, had been recognized as magister by the University in 1245.

[Pg 400]Before the intellectual achievements of these two men, the Franciscan fame for learning paled. But that Order went on winning fame across the Channel, which the Dominicans had crossed before them. In 1224 they came to Oxford, and were received as guests by an establishment of Dominicans: this was but nine years after the foundation of the preaching Order! Perhaps the Franciscan glories overshone the Dominican at Oxford, where Grosseteste belongs to them and Adam of Marsh and Roger Bacon. But whichever Order led, there can be no doubt that together they included the greater part of the intellectual productivity of the maturing thirteenth century. Nevertheless, in spite of the vast work of the Orders in the field of secular knowledge, it will be borne in mind that the advancement of sacra doctrina, theology, the saving understanding of Scripture, was the end and purpose of all study with Dominicans and Franciscans, as it was universally with all orthodox mediaeval schoolmen; although for many the nominal purpose seems a mere convention. Few men of the twelfth or thirteenth century cared to dispute the principle that the Carmina poetarum and the Dicta philosophorum “should be read not for their own sake, but in order that we may learn holy Scripture to the best advantage: I say they are to be offered as first-fruits, for we should not grow old in them, but spring from their thresholds to the sacred page, for whose sake we were studying them for a while.”[542]

Within the two Orders, especially the Franciscan, men differed sharply as to the desirability of learning. So did their contemporaries among the secular clergy, and their mediaeval and patristic predecessors as far back as Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian. On this matter a large variance of opinion might exist within the compass of orthodoxy; for Catholicism did not forbid men to value secular knowledge, provided they did not cleave to opinions contradicting Christian verity. This was heresy, and indeed was the sum of what was called Averroism, the chief intellectual heresy of the thirteenth century. It consisted in a sheer following of Aristotle and his infidel commentator, wheresoever the opinions of the Philosopher, so interpreted,[Pg 401] might lead. They were not to be corrected in the interest of Christian truth. A representative Averroist, and one so important as to draw the fire of Aquinas, as well as the censures of the Church, was Siger de Brabant. He followed Aristotle and his commentator in maintaining: The universal oneness of the (human) intelligence, the anima intellectiva, an opinion which involved the denial of an individual immortality, with its rewards and punishments; the eternity of the visible world,—uncreated and everlasting; a rational necessitarianism which precluded freedom of human action and moral responsibility.

It would be hard to find theses more fundamentally opposed to the Christian Faith. Yet Siger may have deemed himself a Christian. With other Averroists, he sought to preserve his religious standing by maintaining that these opinions were true according to philosophy, but not according to the Catholic Faith: “Dicunt enim ea esse vera secundum philosophiam, sed non secundum fidem catholicam.”[543] With what sincerity Siger held this untenable position is hard to say.



[Pg 402]



The range and character of the ultimate intellectual interests of the thirteenth century may be studied in the works of four men: St. Bonaventura, Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas, and lastly, Roger Bacon. The first and last were as different as might be; and both were Franciscans. Albertus and Thomas represent the successive stages of one achievement, the greatest in the course of mediaeval thought. In some respects, their position is intermediate between Bonaventura and Bacon. Bonaventura reflects many twelfth-century ways of thinking; Albert and Thomas embody par excellence the intellectual movement of the thirteenth century in which they all lived; and Roger Bacon stands for much, the exceeding import of which was not to be recognized until long after he was forgotten. The four were contemporaries, and, with the possible exception of Bacon, knew each other well. Thomas was Albert’s pupil; Thomas and Bonaventura taught at the same time in the Faculty of Theology at Paris, and stood together in the academic conflict between their Orders and the Seculars. Albertus and Bonaventura also must have known each other, teaching at the same time in the theological faculty. As for Bacon, he was likewise at Paris studying and teaching, when the others were there, and may have known them.[544] Albert and Thomas came of princely stock, and sacrificed their fortune in the world for theology’s sake. Bacon’s family was well-to-do; Bonaventura was lowly born.

[Pg 403]John of Fidanza, who under the name of Bonaventura was to become Minister-General of his Order, Cardinal, Saint, and Doctor Seraphicus, saw the light in the Tuscan village of Bagnorea. That he was of Italian, half Latin-speaking, stock is apparent from his own fluent Latin. Probably in the year 1238, when seventeen years old, he joined the Franciscan Order; and four years later was sent to Paris, where he studied under Alexander of Hales. In 1248 he was licensed to lecture publicly, and thenceforth devoted himself at Paris to teaching and writing, and defending his Order against the Seculars, until 1257, when, just as the University conferred on him the title of Magister, he was chosen Minister-General of his Order, in the thirty-seventh year of his age. The greater part of his writings were composed before the burdens of this primacy drew him from his studies. He was still to become Prince of the Church, for he was made Cardinal of Albano in 1273, the year before his death.

For all the Middle Ages the master in theology was Augustine. Either he was studied directly in his own writings, or his views descended through the more turbid channels of the works of men he influenced. Mediaeval theology was overwhelmingly Augustinian until the middle of the thirteenth century; and since theology was philosophy’s queen, mediaeval philosophy conformed to that which Augustine employed in his theology. This, if traced backward to its source, should be called Platonism, or Neo-Platonism if we turn our mind to the modes in which Augustine made use of it. His Neo-Platonism was not unaffected by Peripatetic and later systems of Greek philosophy; yet it was far more Platonic than Stoical or Aristotelian.

Those first teachers, who in the maturity of their powers became Brothers Minorites, were Augustinians in theology, and consequently Platonists, in so far as Platonism made part of Augustine’s doctrines. Thus it was with the first great teacher at the Minorites school in Oxford, Robert Grosseteste, and with the first great Minorite teacher at Paris, Alexander of Hales. Both of these men were promoters of the study of Aristotle; yet neither became so[Pg 404] imbued with Aristotelianism as to revise either his theological system or the Platonic doctrines which seemed germane to it. Moreover, in so far as we may imagine St. Francis to have had a theology, we must feel that Augustine, with his hand on Plato’s shoulder, would have been more congenial to him than Aristotle. And so in fact it was to be with his Order. Augustine’s fervent piety, his imagination and religious temperament, held the Franciscans fast. Surely he was very close to the soul of that eloquent Franciscan teacher, who called Alexander of Hales “master and father,” sat at his feet, and never thought of himself as delivering new teachings. It would have been strange indeed if Bonaventura had broken from the influences which had formed his soul, this Bonaventura whose most congenial precursor lived and wrote and followed Augustine far back in the twelfth century, and bore the name of Hugo of St. Victor. Bonaventura’s writings did much to fix Augustinianism upon his Order; rivalry with the Dominicans doubtless helped to make it fast; for the latter were following another system under the dominance of their two Titan leaders, who had themselves come to maturity with the new Aristotelian influences, whereof they were magna pars.

But just as Grosseteste and Alexander made use of what they knew of Aristotle, so Bonaventura had no thought of misprizing him who was becoming in western Europe “the master of those who know.” In specific points this wise Augustinian might prefer Aristotle to Plato. For example, he chose to stand, with the former, upon the terra firma of sense perception, rather than keep ever on the wing in the upper region of ideal concepts.

“Although the anima, according to Augustine, is linked to eternal principles (legibus aeternis), since somehow it does reach the light of the higher reason, still it is unquestionable, as the Philosopher says, that cognition originates in us by the way of the senses, of memory, and of experience, out of which the universal is deduced, which is the beginning of art and knowledge (artis et scientiae). Hence, since Plato referred all certain cognition to the intelligible or ideal world, he was rightly criticized by Aristotle. Not because he spoke ill in saying that there are ideas and eternal rationes; but because, despising the world of sense, he wished to refer all certain cognition to those Ideas. And thus, although Plato seems to[Pg 405] make firm the path of wisdom (sapientiae) which proceeds according to the eternal rationes, he destroys the way of knowledge, which proceeds according to the rationes of created things (rationes creatas). So it appears that, among philosophers, the word of wisdom (sermo sapientiae) was given to Plato, and the word of knowledge (scientiae) to Aristotle. For that one chiefly looked to the things above, and this one considered things below.[545] But both the word of wisdom and of knowledge, through the Holy Spirit, was given to Augustine, as the pre-eminent declarer of the entire Scripture.”[546]

So there is Aristotelian ballast in Bonaventura’s Platonic-Augustinian theology. His chief divergence from Albert and Thomas (who, of course, likewise held Augustine in honour, and drew on Plato when they chose) is to be found in his temperamental attitude, toward life, toward God, or toward theology and learning. His Augustinian soul held to the pre-eminence of the good above the true, and tended to shape the second to the first. So he maintained the primacy of willing over knowing. Man attains God through goodness of will and through love. The way of knowledge is less prominent with Bonaventura than with Aquinas. Surely the latter, and his master Albert, saw the main sanction of secular knowledge in its ministry to sacra doctrina; but their hearts may seem to tarry with the handmaid. Bonaventura’s position is the same; but his heart never tarries with the handmaid; for with him heart and mind are ever constant to the queen, Theology. Yet he recognizes the queen’s need of the handmaid. Holy Writ is not for babes; the fulness of knowledge is needed for its understanding: “Non potest intelligi sacra Scriptura sine aliarum scientiarum peritia.”[547] And without philosophy many matters of the Faith cannot be intelligently discussed. There is no knowledge which may not be sanctified to the purpose of understanding Scripture; only let this purpose really guide the mind’s pursuits.

[Pg 406]Bonaventura wrote a short treatise to emphasize these universally admitted principles, and to show how every form of human knowledge conformed to the supreme illumination afforded by Scripture, and might be reduced to the terms and methods of Theology, which is Scripture rightly understood. He named the tract De reductione artium ad theologiam[548] (The leading back of the Arts to Theology).

“‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights,’ says James. This indicates the source of all illumination, and the streaming of all enlightenment from that fontal light. While every illumination is inner knowledge (omnis illuminatio cognitio interna sit) we may distinguish the external light, (lumen exterius), to wit, the light of mechanical art; the lower light, to wit, the light of sense perception; the interior light, to wit, the light of philosophical cognition; the superior light, to wit, the light of grace and Holy Scripture. The first illuminates as to the arts and crafts; the second as to natural form; the third as to intellectual truth; the fourth as to saving truth.”

He enumerates the mechanical arts, drawing from Hugo of St. Victor; then he follows with Augustine’s explanation of the second lumen, as that which discerns corporeal things. He next speaks of the third lumen which lightens us to the investigation of truths intelligible, scrutinizing the truth of words (Logic), or the truth of things (Physics), or the truth of morals (Ethics). The fourth lumen, of Holy Scripture, comes not by seeking, but descends through inspiration from the Father of lights. It includes the literal, the spiritual, moral and anagogic signification of Scripture, teaching the eternal generation and incarnation of Christ, the way to live, and the union of God and the soul. The first of these branches pertains to faith, the second to morals, and the third to the aim and end of both.

“Let us see,” continues Bonaventura, “how the other illuminations have to be reduced to the light of Holy Scripture. And first as to the illumination from sense cognition, as to which we consider its means, its exercise, and its delight (oblectamentum).” Its means is the Word eternally generated, and incarnated in time; its exercise is in the sense perception of an ordered way of living, following[Pg 407] the suitable and avoiding the nocuous; and as for its object of delight, as every sense pursues that which delights it, so the sense of our heart should seek the beautiful, harmonious, and sweet-smelling. In this way divine wisdom dwells hidden in sense cognition.

Next, as to the illumination of mechanical art, which is concerned with the production of the works of craft. Herein likewise may be observed analogies with the light from Holy Scripture, which reveals the Word, the order of living, and the union of God and the soul. No creature proceeds from the great Artificer, save through the Word; and the human artificer works to produce a beautiful, useful, and enduring work; which corresponds to the Scriptural order of living. Each human artificer makes his work that it may bring him praise or use or delight; as God made the rational soul, to praise and serve and take delight in Him, through love.

By similar methods of reasoning Bonaventura next “reduces,” or leads back, Logic, and Natural and Moral Philosophy to the ways and purposes of Theology, and shows how “the multiform wisdom of God, which is set forth lucidly by Scripture, lies hidden in every cognition, and in every nature. It is also evident that all kinds of knowledge minister to Theology; and that Theology takes illustrations, and uses phrases, pertaining to every kind of knowledge (cognitionis). It is also plain how ample is the illuminating path, and how in every thing that is sensed or perceived, God himself lies concealed.”[549]

Ways of reasoning change, while conclusions sometimes endure. Bonaventura’s reasoning in the above treatise is for us abstruse and fanciful; yet many will agree with the conclusion, that all kinds of knowledge may minister to our thought of God, and of man’s relationship to Him. And with Bonaventura, all his knowledge, his study of secular philosophy, his logic and powers of presentation, had theology unfailingly in view, and ministered to the satisfaction, the[Pg 408] actualization (to use our old word) of his religious nature. He belongs among those intellectually gifted men—Augustine, Anselm, Hugo of St. Victor—whose mental and emotional powers draw always to God, and minister to the conception of the soul’s union with the living spring of its being. The life, the labours of Bonaventura were as the title of the little book we have just been worrying with, a reductio artium ad theologiam, a constant adapting of all knowledge and ways of meditation, to the sense of God and the soul’s inclusion in the love divine. No one should expect to find among his compositions any independent treatment of secular knowledge for its own sake. Rather throughout his writings the reasonings of philosophy are found always ministering to the sovereign theme.

The most elaborate of Bonaventura’s doctrinal works was his Commentary upon the Lombard’s Sentences. In form and substance it was a Summa theologiae.[550] He also made a brief and salutary theological compend, which he called the Breviloquium.[551] The note of devotional piety is struck by the opening sentence, taken from the Epistle to the Ephesians, and is held throughout the work:

“‘I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole fatherhood in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled in all the fulness of God.’ The great doctor of the Gentiles discloses in these words the source, progress, and state (ortus, progressus, status) of Holy Scripture, which is called Theology; indicating that the source is to be thought upon according to the grace (influentiam) of the most blessed Trinity; the progress with reference to the needs of human capacity; and the state or fruit with respect to the superabundance of a superplenary felicity.

“For the Source lies not in human investigation, but in divine revelation, which flows from the Father of lights, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and earth is named, from whom, through His[Pg 409] Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit flows in us; and through the Holy Spirit bestowing, as He wills, gifts on each, faith is given, and through faith Christ dwells in our hearts. This is the knowledge of Jesus Christ, from which, as from a source, comes the certitude and understanding of the whole Scripture. Wherefore it is impossible that any one should advance in its knowledge, unless he first has Christ infused in him....

“The Progress of Holy Scripture is not bound to the laws of reasonings and definitions, like the other sciences; but, conformably to supernatural light, proceeds to give to man the wayfarer (homini viatori) a knowledge of things sufficing for his salvation, by plain words in part, and in part mystically: it presents the contents of the universe as in a Summa, in which is observed the breadth; it describes the descent (from above) in which is considered the length; it describes the goodness of the saved, in which is considered the height; it describes the misery of the damned, in which consists the depth not only of the universe itself but of the divine judgment....

“The State or fruit of Holy Scripture is the plentitude of eternal felicity. For the Book containing words of eternal life was written not only that we might believe, but that we might have eternal life, in which we shall see, we shall love, and all our desires shall be filled, whereupon we shall know the love which passeth knowledge, and be filled in all the fulness of God....

“As to the progress of Scripture, first is to be considered the breadth, which consists in the multitude of parts.... Rightly is Holy Scripture divided into the Old and New Testament, and not in theorica and practica, like philosophy; because since Scripture is founded on the knowledge of faith, which is a virtue and the basis of morals, it is not possible to separate in Scripture the knowledge of things, or of what is to be believed, from the knowledge of morals. It is otherwise with philosophy, which handles not only the truth of morals, but the true, speculatively considered. Then as Holy Scripture is knowledge (notitia) moving to good and recalling from evil, through fear and love, so it is divided into two Testaments, whose difference, briefly, is fear and love....

“Holy Scripture has also length, which consists in the description of times and ages from the beginning to the day of Judgment.... The progress of the whole world is described by Scripture, as in a beautiful poem, wherein one may follow the descent of time, and contemplate the variety, manifoldness, equity, order, righteousness, and beauty of the multitude of divine judgments proceeding from the wisdom of God ruling the world: and as with a poem, so with this ordering of the world, one cannot see its beauty save by considering the whole....

“No less has Sacred Scripture height (sublimitatem), consisting in[Pg 410] description of the ranged hierarchies, the ecclesiastical, angelic, and divine.... Even as things have being in matter or nature, they have also being in the anima through its acquired knowledge; they have also being in the anima through grace, also through glory; and they have also being in the way of the eternal—in arte aeterna. Philosophy treats of things as they are in nature, or in the anima according to the knowledge which is naturally implanted or acquired. But theology as a science (scientia) founded upon faith and revealed by the Holy Spirit, treats of those matters which belong to grace and glory and to the eternal wisdom. Whence placing philosophic cognition beneath itself, and drawing from nature (de naturis rerum) as much as it may need to make a mirror yielding a reflection of things divine, it constructs a ladder which presses the earth at the base, and touches heaven at the top: and all this through that one hierarch Jesus Christ, who through his assumption of human nature, is hierarch not in the ecclesiastical hierarchy alone, but also in the angelic; and is the medial person in the divine hierarchy of the most blessed Trinity.”[552]

The depth (profunditas) of Scripture consists in its manifold mystic meanings. It reveals these meanings of the creature world for the edification of man journeying to his fatherland. Scripture throughout its breadth, length, height, and depth uses narrative, threat, exhortation, and promise all for one end. “For this doctrina exists in order that we may become good and be saved, which comes not through naked consideration, but rather through inclination of the will.... Here examples have more effect than arguments, promises are more moving than ratiocinations, and devotion is better than definition.” Hence Scripture does not follow the method and divisions of other sciences, but uses its own diverse means for its saving end. The Prologue closes with rules of Scriptural interpretation.[553]

In our plan of following what is of human interest in mediaeval philosophy or theology, prologues and introductions are sometimes of more importance than the works which they preface; for they disclose the writer’s intent and purpose, and the endeavour within him, which may be more[Pg 411] intimately himself, than his performance. So more space has been given to Bonaventura’s Prologue than the body of the treatise will require. The order of topics is that of the Lombard’s Sentences or Aquinas’s Summa. Seven successive partes consider the Trinity, the creation, the corruption from sin, the Incarnation, the grace of the Holy Spirit, the sacramental medicine, and the Last Judgment. Each pars is divided into chapters setting forth some special topic. Bonaventura’s method, pursued in every chapter, is to state first the scriptural or dogmatic propositions, and then give their reason, which he introduces with such words as: Ratio autem ad praedictorum intelligentiam haec est. The work is a complete systematic compend of Christian theology; its conciseness and lucidity of statement are admirable. For an example of its method and quality, the first chapter of the sixth part may be given, upon the origin of Sacraments.

“Having treated of the Trinity of God, of the creation of the world, the corruption of sin, the incarnation of the Word, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, it is time to treat of the sacramental medicine, regarding which there are seven matters to consider: the origin of the sacraments, their variation, distinction, appointment, dispensation, repetition, and the integrity of each.

“Concerning[554] the origin of the Sacraments this is to be held, that sacraments are sensible signs divinely appointed as medicaments, in which under cover of things sensible, divine virtue secretly operates; also that from likeness they represent, from appointment they signify, from sanctification they confer, some spiritual grace, through which the soul is healed from the infirmities of vice; and for this as their final end they are ordained; yet they avail for humility, instruction, and exercise as for a subsidiary end.

“The reason and explanation of the aforesaid is this: The reparative principle (principium), is Christ crucified, to wit, the Word incarnate, that directs all things most compassionately because divine, and most compassionately heals because divinely incarnate. It must repair, heal, and save the sick human race, in a way suited to the sick one, the sickness and the occasion of it, and the cure of the sickness. The physician is the incarnate Word, to wit, God invisible in a visible nature. The sick man is not simply spirit, nor simply flesh, but spirit in mortal flesh. The disease is original sin, which through ignorance infects the mind,[Pg 412] and through concupiscence infects the flesh. While the origin of this fault primarily lay in reason’s consent, yet its occasion came from the senses of the body. Consequently, in order that the medicine should correspond to these conditions, it should be not simply spiritual, but should have somewhat of sensible signs; for as things sensible were the occasion of the soul’s falling, they should be the occasion of its rising again. Yet since visible signs of themselves have no efficiency ordained for grace, although representative of its nature, it was necessary that they should by the author of grace be appointed to signify and should be blessed in order to sanctify; so that there should be a representation from natural likeness, a signification from appointment, and a sanctification and preparedness for grace from the added benediction, through which our soul may be cured and made whole.

“Again, since curative grace is not given to the puffed up, the unbelieving, and disdainful, so these sensible signs divinely given, ought to be such as not only would sanctify and confer grace, and heal, but also would instruct by their signification, humble by their acceptance, and exercise through their diversity; that thus through exercise despondency (acedia) should be shut out from the desiderative [nature], through instruction ignorance be shut out from the rational [nature], through humiliation pride be shut out from the irascible [nature], and the whole soul become curable by the grace of the Holy Spirit, which remakes us according to these three capacities (potentias)[555] into the image of the Trinity and Christ. Finally, whereas the grace of the Holy Spirit is received through these sensible signs divinely appointed, it is found in them as an accident. Hence sacraments of this kind are called the vessels and cause of grace: not that grace is of their substance or produced by them as by a cause; for its place is in the soul, and it is infused by God alone; but because it is ordained by divine decree, that in them and through them we shall draw the grace of cure from the supreme physician, Christ; although God has not fettered His grace to the sacraments.[556]

“From the premises, therefore, appears not only what may be the origin of the sacraments, but also the use and fruit. For their origin is Christ the Lord; their use is the act which exercises, teaches, and humbles; their fruit is the cure and salvation of men. It is also evident that the efficient cause of the sacraments is the divine appointment; their material cause is the figurement of the sensible sign; their formal cause the sanctification by grace; their final cause the medicinal healing of men. And because they are named from their form and end they are called sacraments,[Pg 413] as it were medicamenta sanctificantia. Through them the soul is led back from the filth of vice to perfect sanctification. And so, although corporeal and sensible, they are medicinal, and to be venerated as holy because they signify holy mysteries, and make ready for the holy gifts (charismata) given by most holy God; and they are divinely consecrated by holy institution and benediction for the holiest worship of God appointed in holy church, so that rightly they should be called sacraments.”

The Breviloquium was Bonaventura’s rational compendium of Christian theology. It offered in brief compass as complete a system as the bulkiest Summa could carry out to doctrinal elaboration. Quite different in method and intent was his equally famous Itinerarium mentis in Deum,[557] the praise of which, according to the great Chancellor Gerson, could not fitly be uttered by mortal mouth. We have seen how in the Reductio artium ad theologiam Bonaventura conformed all modes of perception and knowledge to the uses and modes of theology; the final end of which is man’s salvation, consisting in the union of the soul with God, through every form of enlightenment and all the power of love. The Breviloquium has given the sum of Christian doctrine, an intelligent and heart-felt understanding of which leads to salvation. And now the Itinerarium—well, it is best to let Bonaventura tell how he came to compose it, and of its purpose and character.

“Since, after the example of our most blessed father Francis, I pant in spirit for the peace which he preached in the manner of our Lord Jesus Christ, I a sinner who am the seventh, all unworthy, Minister-General of the Brethren,—it happened that by God’s will in the thirty-third year after our blessed father’s death, I turned aside to the mountain of Alverna, as to a quiet place, seeking the spirit’s peace. While I lingered there my mind dwelt on the ascensions of the spirit, and, among others, on the miracle which in that very spot came to blessed Francis, when he saw the winged Seraph in the likeness of the Crucified. And it seemed to me his vision represented the suspension of our father in contemplation, and the way by which he came to it. For by those six wings may be understood the suspensions of the six illuminations, by which the soul, as by steps and journeys, through ecstatic outpourings of Christian wisdom, is prepared to pass beyond to peace. For the way lies only through love of the[Pg 414] Crucified, which so transformed Paul carried to the third heaven, that he could say: ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ So the image of the six seraph’s wings represents the six rungs of illumination, which begin with the creatures and lead on to God, to whom no one can come save through the Crucified....

“For one is not prepared for the divine contemplations, which lead to the rapt visions of the mind, unless he be with Daniel, a man of desires.[558] Desires are stirred within us by the cry of prayer and the bright light of speculation. I shall invite the reader first to the sighings of prayer through Christ crucified, lest perchance he believe that study might suffice without unction, or diligence without piety, knowledge without charity, zeal without divine grace, or the mirror (speculum) without the wisdom divinely inspired. Then to those humble and devout ones, to whom grace first has come, to those lovers of the divine wisdom, who burn with desire of it, and are willing to be still, for the magnifying of God, I shall propose pertinent speculations, showing how little or nothing is it to turn the mirror outward unless the mirror of our mind be rubbed and polished.”

Thus Bonaventura writes his prologue to this devotional tract, which will also hold “pertinent speculations.” Remarkable is the intellectuality and compacted thought which he fuses in emotional expression. He will write seven chapters, on the seven steps, or degrees, in the ascent to God, which is the mind’s true itinerarium. Since we cannot by ourselves lift ourselves above ourselves, prayer is the very mother and source of our upward struggle. Prayer opens our eyes to the steps in the ascent. Placed in the universe of things, we find in it the corporeal and temporal footprint (vestigium) leading into the way of God. Then we enter our mind, which is the everlasting and spiritual image of God; and this is to enter the truth of God. Whereupon we should rise above us to the eternal most spiritual first cause; and this is to rejoice in the knowledge of God’s majesty. This is the threefold illumination, by which we recognise the triple existence of things, in matter, in the intelligence, and in the divine way—in arte divina. And likewise our mind has three outlooks, one upon the corporeal world without, which is called sense, another into and within itself, which is called spiritus, and a third above[Pg 415] itself, which is called mens. By means of all three, man should set himself to rising toward God, and love Him with the whole mind, and heart, and soul.

Then Bonaventura makes further analysis of his triple illumination into

“six degrees or powers of the soul, to wit, sense, imagination, reason, intellect, intelligence, and apex mentis seu synteresis scintilla. These degrees are planted within us by nature, deformed through fault, reformed through grace, purged through righteousness, exercised through knowledge, perfected through wisdom.... Whoever wishes to ascend to God should shun the sins which deform nature, and stretch forth his natural powers, in prayer, toward reforming grace, in mode of life, toward purifying righteousness, in meditation, toward illuminating knowledge, in contemplation toward the wisdom which makes perfect. For as no one reaches wisdom except through grace, righteousness, and knowledge, so no one reaches contemplation, except through meditation, a holy life, and devout prayer.”

Chapter one closes with little that is novel; for we seem to be retracing the thoughts of Hugo of St. Victor. The second chapter is on the “Contemplation of God in His Footprints in the Sensible World.” This is the next grade of speculation, because we shall now contemplate God not only through His footprints, but in them also, so far as He is in them through essence, power, or presence. The sensible world, the macrocosmus, enters the microcosmus, which is the anima, through the gates of the five senses. The author sketches the processes of sense-perception, through which outer facts are apprehended according to their species, and delighted in if pleasing, and then adjudged according to the ratio of their delightfulness, to wit, their beauty, sweetness, salubrity, and proportion. Such are the footprints in which we may contemplate our God. All things knowable possess the quality of generating their species in our minds, through the medium of our perceptions; and thus we are led to contemplate the eternal generation of the Word—image and Son—from the Father. Likewise sweetness and beauty point on to their fontal source. And from speculation on the local, the temporal, and mutable, our reason carries us to the thought of the immutable, the uncircumscribed and eternal. Then from the[Pg 416] beauty and delightfulness of things, we pass to the thought of number and proportion, and judge of their irrefragable laws, wherein are God’s wisdom and power.

“The creatures of this sensible world signify the invisible things of God; in part because God is the source and exemplar and end of every creature; in part through their proper likeness; in part from their prophetic prefiguring; in part from angelic operations; and in part through superadded ordainment. For every creature by nature is an effigy of the eternal wisdom; especially whatever creature in Scripture is taken by the spirit of prophecy as a type of the spiritual; but more especially those creatures in the likeness of which God willed to appear by an angelic minister; and most especially that creature which he chose to mark as a sacrament.”

From these first grades of speculation, which contemplate the footprints of God in the world, we are led to contemplate the divine image in the natural powers of our minds. We find the image of the most blessed Trinity in our memory, our rational intelligence, and our will; the joint action of which leads on to the desire of the summum bonum. Next we contemplate the divine image in our minds remade by the gifts of grace upon which we must enter by the door of the faith, hope, and love of the Mediator of God and men, Jesus Christ. As philosophy helped us to see the image of God in the natural qualities of our mind, so Scripture now is needed to bring us to these three theological virtues (faith, hope, and love), which enable the mind of fallen man to be repaired and made anew through grace.

From this fourth grade, in which God is still contemplated in his image, we rise to consider God as pure being, wherein there is neither privation, nor bound, nor particularity; and next in his goodness, the highest communicability (summam communicabilitatem) of which may be contemplated, but not comprehended, in the mystery of the most blessed Trinity. “In whom [the persons of the Trinity] it is necessary because of the summa bonitas that there should be the summa communicabilitas, and because of the latter, the summa consubstantialitas, and because of this the summa configurabilitas, and from these the summa coaequalitas, and through this the summa coaeternitas, and[Pg 417] from all the preceding the summa cointimitas, by which each is in the other, and one works with the other through every conceivable indivisibility (indivisionem) of the substance, virtue, and operation of the same most blessed Trinity....” “And when thou contemplatest this,” adds Bonaventura, “do not think to comprehend the incomprehensible.”

From age to age the religious soul finds traces of its God in nature and in its inmost self. Its ways of finding change, varying with the prevailing currents of knowledge; yet still it ever finds these vestigia, which represent the widest deductions of its reasoning, the ultimate resultants of its thought, and its own brooding peace. Therefore may we not follow sympathetically the Itinerarium of Bonaventura’s mind as it traces the footprints of its God? Thus far the way has advanced by reason, uplifted by grace, and yet still reason. This reason has comprehended what it might comprehend of the traces and evidences of God in the visible creation and the soul of man; it has sought to apprehend the being of God, but has humbly recognized its inability to penetrate the marvels of his goodness in the mystery of the most blessed Trinity. There it stops at the sixth grade of contemplation; yet not baffled, or rendered vain, for it has performed its function and brought the soul on to where she may fling forth from reason’s steeps, and find herself again, buoyant and blissful, in a medium of super-rational contemplation. This makes the last chapter of the mind’s Itinerarium; it is the apex mentis, the summit of all contemplations in which the mind has rest. Henceforth

“Christ is the way and door, the ladder and the vehicle, as the propitiation placed on the Ark of God, and the sacrament hidden from the world. He who looks on this propitiation, with his look full fixed on him who hangs upon the cross, through faith, hope, and charity, and all devotion, he makes his Passover, and through the rod of the cross shall pass through the Red Sea, out of Egypt entering the desert, and there taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the tomb, dead to all without; and shall realize, though as one still on the way, the word of Christ to the believing thief: ‘To-day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.’ Which was also revealed to the blessed Francis when in ecstasy of contemplation on the high mountain, the Seraph with six wings, nailed on a cross, appeared to him. There, as we have heard from his[Pg 418] companion, he passed into God through ecstasy of contemplation, and was set as an exemplar of perfect contemplation, whereby God should invite all truly spiritual men to this transit and ecstasy, by example rather than by word. In this passing over, if it be perfect, all the ways of reason are relinquished, and the apex affectus is transferred and transformed into God. This is the mystic secret known by no one who does not receive it, and received by none who does not desire it, and desired only by him whose heart’s core is aflame from the fire of the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent on earth.... Since then nature avails nothing here, and diligence but little, we should give ourselves less to investigation and more to unction; little should be given to speech, and most to inner gladness; little to the written word, and all to God’s gift the Holy Spirit; little or nothing is to be ascribed to the creature, and all to the creative essence, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

Here Bonaventura loses himself in an untranslatable extract from Eriugena’s version of the Areopagite, and then proceeds:

“If thou askest how may these things be, interrogate grace and not doctrine, desire and not knowledge, the groaning of prayer rather than study, the Spouse rather than the teacher, God and not man, mist rather than clarity, not light but fire all aflame and bearing on to God by devotion and glowing affection. Which fire is God, and the man Christ kindles it in the fervour of his passion, as only he perceives who says: ‘My soul chooseth strangling and my bones, death.’ He who loves this death shall see God. Then let us die and pass into darkness, and silence our solicitudes, our desires, and phantasies; let us pass over with Christ crucified from this world to the Father; that the Father shown us, we may say with Philip: ‘it sufficeth us.’ Let us hear with Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ Let us exult with David, saying: ‘Defecit caro mea et cor meum, Deus cordis mei et pars mea Deus in aeternum’.”[559]

It is best to leave the saint and doctor here, and not follow in other treatises the current of his yearning thought till it divides in streamlets which press on their tortuous ways through allegory and the adumbration of what the mind disclaims the power to express directly. Those more elaborate treatises of his, which are called mystic, are difficult for us to read. As with Hugo of St. Victor, from whom he drew so largely, Bonaventura’s expression of his[Pg 419] religious yearnings may interest and move us; but one needs perhaps the cloister’s quiet to follow on through the allegorical elaboration of this pietism. Bonaventura’s Soliloquium might weary us after the Itinerarium, and we should read his De septem itineribus aeternitatis with no more pleasure than Hugo’s Mystic Ark of Noah. It is enough to witness the spiritual attitude of these men without tracking them through the “selva oscura” to their lairs of meditation.



[Pg 420]



Albert the Great was prodigious in the mass of his accomplishment. Therein lay his importance for the age he lived in; therein lies his interest for us. For him, substantial philosophy, as distinguished from the instrumental rôle of logic, had three parts, set by nature, rather than devised by man; they are physics, mathematics, and metaphysics. “It is our intention,” says Albert at the beginning of his exposition of Aristotle’s Physics, “to make all the said parts intelligible to the Latins.” And he did. Perhaps the world has had no greater purveyor of a knowledge not his own. He is comparable with Boëthius, who gave the Latin world the Aristotelian Organon, a gift but half availed of for many centuries. Albert gave his Latin world the rest of Aristotle, the philosophia realis. His world was as ready to receive this great donation, as the time of Boëthius was unready to profit by any intellectual gift demanding mental energies for its assimilation. Boëthius stood alone in his undertaking; if his hand failed there was none to take up his task. Fate stayed his hand; and the purpose that was his, to render the whole of Plato and Aristotle intelligible to the Latin world, perished with him, the Latin world being by no means eager for the whole of Aristotle and Plato, and unfit to receive it had it been proffered. But Albert’s time was eager; it was importunate for the very enlargement of knowledge which Albert, more than any other man, was bringing it. An age obtains what it demands. Albert had fellow-labourers, some preceding, some assisting, and others following him, to perfect the[Pg 421] knowledge in which he worked, and build it into the scholastic Christian scheme. But in this labour of purveyorship he overtopped the rest, the giant of them all.

He was born Count of Bollstadt, in Suabia, probably in the year 1193. Whether his youth was passed in the profession of arms, or in study, is not quite clear. But while still young he began his years of studious travel, and at Padua in 1223 he joined the Dominican Order. He became a miracle of learning, reputed also as one who could explain the phenomena of nature. From 1228 to 1245 he taught in German cities, chiefly at Cologne. Then the scene changed to Paris, where he lectured and won fame from 1245 to 1248. With this period begins the publication of his philosophical encyclopaedia. Perhaps it was first completed in 1256. But Albert kept supplementing and revising it until his death. In 1248 he was remanded to Cologne to establish a school there. His life continued devoted to study and teaching, yet with interruptions. For he filled the office of Provincial of his Order for Germany from 1254 to 1257, and was compelled to be Bishop of Regensburg from 1260 to 1262. Then he insisted on resigning, and retired to a cloister at Cologne. Naturally he was engaged in a number of learned controversies, and was burdened with numerous ecclesiastical affairs. In 1277 for the last time he set his face toward Paris, to defend the doctrines and memory of his great pupil, who had died three years before. His own illustrious life closed at Cologne on the fifteenth of November, 1280. Albert was a man of piety, conforming strictly to the rules of his Order. It is said that he refused to own even the manuscripts which he indited; and as Dominican Provincial of Germany he walked barefoot on his journeys through the vast territory set under his supervision. Tradition has him exceeding small of stature.

Albert’s labours finally put within reach of his contemporaries the sum of philosophy and science contained in the works of Aristotle, and his ancient, as well as Arabian, commentators. The undertaking was grandly conceived; it was carried out with tireless energy and massive learning. Let us observe the principles which[Pg 422] informed the mind of this mighty Teuton scholar. He transcribed approvingly the opinion expressed by Aristotle at the opening of the Metaphysics, that the love of knowledge is natural to man; and he recognized the pleasure arising from knowledge of the sensible world, apart from considerations of utility.[560] He took this thought from Aristotle; but the proof that he made it his own with power lay in those fifty years of intellectual toil which produced the greatest of all mediaeval storehouses of knowledge.

In his reliance on his sources, Albert is mediaeval; his tendency is to accept the opinion which he is reproducing, especially when it is the opinion of Aristotle. Yet he protested against regarding even him as infallible. “He who believes that Aristotle was God, ought to believe that he never erred. If one regards him as a man, then surely he may err as well as we.”[561] Albert was no Averroist to adhere to all the views of the Philosopher; he pointedly differed from him where orthodoxy demanded it, maintaining, for instance, the creation of the world in time, contrary to the opinion of the Peripatetics. Albert, and with him Aquinas, had not accepted merely the task of expounding Aristotle, but also that of correcting him where Truth (with a large Christian capital) required it. Albert held that Aristotle might err, and that he did not know everything. The development of science was not closed by his death: “Dicendum quod scientiae demonstrativae non omnes factae sunt, sed plures restant adhuc inveniendae.”[562] This is not Roger Bacon speaking, but Albertus; and still more might one think to hear the voice of the recalcitrant Franciscan in the words: “Oportet experimentum non in uno modo, sed secundum omnes circumstantias probare.”[563] Yet these words too are Albert’s, and he is speaking of the observation of nature’s phenomena; regarding which one shall not simply transcribe the ancient statement; but observe with his own eyes and mind.

[Pg 423]This was in the spirit of Aristotle; Albert recognizes and approves. But did he make the experimental principle his own with power, as he did the thought that the desire to know is inborn? This is a fundamental question as to Albert. No one denies his learning, his enormous book-diligence. But was he also an observer of natural phenomena? One who sought to test from his own observation the statements of the books he read? It is best here to avoid either a categorical affirmation or denial. The standard by which one shapes one’s answer is important. Are we to compare Albert with a St. Bernard, whose meditations shut his eyes to mountains, lakes, and woods? Or are we to apply the standards of a natural science which looks always to the tested results of observation? There is sufficient evidence in Albert’s writings to show that he kept his eyes open, and took notice of interesting phenomena, seen, for instance, on his journeys. But, on the other hand, it is absurd to imagine that he dreamed of testing the written matter which he paraphrased, or of materially adding to it, by systematic observation of nature. Accounts of his observations do not always raise our opinion of his science. He transcribes the description of certain worms, and says that they may come from horse-hairs, for he has seen horse-hairs, in still water, turning into worms.[564] The trouble was that Albert had no general understanding of the processes of nature. Consequently, in his De animalibus for instance, he gives the fabulous as readily as the more reasonable. Nevertheless let no one think that natural knowledge did not really interest and delight him. His study of plants has led the chief historian of botany to assert that Albert was the first real botanist, after the ancient Theophrastus, inasmuch as he studied for the sake of learning the nature of plants, irrespective of their medical or agricultural uses.[565]

The writings of Albertus Magnus represent, perhaps more fully than those of any other man, the round of knowledge and intellectual interest attracting the attention of western Europe in the thirteenth century. At first glance[Pg 424] they seem to separate into those which in form and substance are paraphrases of Aristotelian treatises, or borrowed expositions of Aristotelian topics; and those which are more independent compositions. Yet the latter, like the Summa de creaturis, for example, will be found to consist largely of borrowed material; the matter is rearranged, and presented in some new connection, or with a purpose other than that of its source.

In his Aristotelian paraphrases, which were thickly sown with digressive expositions, Albert’s method, as he states at the beginning of the Physica, is “to follow the order and opinions of Aristotle, and to give in addition whatever is needed in the way of explanation and support; yet without reproducing Aristotle’s text (tamen quod textus eius nulla fiat mentio). And we shall also compose digressiones to expound whatever is obscure.” The titles of the chapters will indicate whether their substance is from Aristotle. Thus instead of giving the Aristotelian text, with an attached commentary, Albert combines paraphrase and supplementary exposition. Evidently the former method would have presented Aristotle’s meaning more surely, and would have thus subserved a closer scholarship. But for this the Aristotelian commentaries of Aquinas must be awaited.

The compass of Albert’s achievement as a purveyor of ancient knowledge may be seen from a cursory survey of his writings; which will likewise afford an idea of the quality of his work, and how much there was of Albert in it.[566] To begin with, he sets forth with voluminous exposition the entire Aristotelian Organon. The preliminary questions as to the nature of logic were treated in the De praedicabilibus,[567] which expanded the substance of Porphyry’s Isagoge. In this treatise Albert expounds his conclusions as to universals, the universal being that which is in one yet is fit (aptum) to be in many, and is predicable of many. “Et hoc modo prout ratio est praedicabilitatis, ad logicam pertinet de universali tractare; quamvis secundum quod est natura quaedam[Pg 425] et differentia entis, tractare de ipso pertineat ad metaphysicam.” That is to say, It pertains to logic to treat of the universal in respect to its predicability; but in so far as the question relates to the nature and differences of essential being, it pertains to metaphysics. This sentence is an example of Albert’s awkward Latin; but it shows how firmly he distinguishes between the logical and the metaphysical material. His treatment of logic is exhaustive, rather than acutely discriminating. He works constantly with the material of others, and the result is more inclusive than organic.[568] In his ponderous treatment of logical themes, no possible consideration is omitted.

The De praedicabilibus is followed by the De praedicamentis, Albert’s treatise on the Categories. Next comes his Liber de sex principiis, which is a paraphrasing exposition of the work of Gilbert de la Porrée. Then comes his Perihermenias, which keeps the Greek title of the De interpretatione. These writings are succeeded by elaborate expositions of the more advanced logical treatises of Aristotle, all of them, of course, Analytics (Prior and Posterior), Topics, and Elenchi. The total production is detailed, exhaustive, awful; it is ingens truly, only not quite informis; and Teutonically painstaking and conscientious.

Thus logic makes Tome I. of the twenty-one tomes of Albert’s Opera. Tome II. contains his expository paraphrases of Aristotle’s Physics and lesser treatises upon physical topics, celestial and terrestrial. From the opening chapter we have already taken the programme of his large intention to make known all Aristotle to the Latins. In this chapter likewise he proceeds to lay out the divisions of philosophia realis into Aristotelian conceptions of metaphysica, mathematica, and physica. With chapter two he falls into the first of his interminable digressions, taking up what were called “the objections of Heracleitus” to any science of physics. Another digressive chapter considers the proper subject of physical science, to wit, corpus mobile, and another considers its divisions. After a while he takes up the opinions of the ancients upon the beginnings (principia) of things, and then[Pg 426] reasons out the true opinion in the matter. Liber II. of his Physica is devoted to Natura, considered in many ways, but chiefly as the principium intrinsecum omnium eorum quae naturalia sunt. It is the principle of motion in the mobile substance. Next he passes to a discussion of causes; and in the succeeding books he considers movement, place, time, and eternity. Albert’s paraphrase is replete with logical forms of thinking; it seems like formal logic applied in physical science. The world about us still furnishes, or is, data for our thoughts; and we try to conceive it consistently, so as to satisfy our thinking; so did Aristotle and Albertus. But they avowedly worked out their conceptions of the external world according to the laws determining the consistency of their own mental processes; and deemed this a proper way of approach to natural science. Yet the work of Aristotle represents a real consideration of the universe, and a tremendous mass of natural knowledge. The achievement of Albertus in rendering it available to the scholar-world of the thirteenth century was an extension of knowledge which seems the more prodigious as we note its enormous range. This continues to impress us as we turn over Albert’s next treatises, paraphrasing those of Aristotle, as their names indicate: De coelo et mundo; De generatione et corruptione; Libri IV. meteorum; De mineralibus, which ends Tome II. and the physical treatises proper.

Tome III. introduces us to another region, opening with Albert’s exhaustive paraphrase, De anima. It is placed here because the scientia de anima is a part of naturalis scientia, and comes after minerals and other topics of physics, but precedes the science of animate bodies—corporum animatorum; for the last cannot be known except through knowing their animae. In this, as well as in other works of Albert, psychological material is gathered from many sources. One may hardly speak of the psychology of Albertus Magnus, since his matter has no organic unity. It is largely Aristotelian, with the thoughts of Arab commentators taken into it, as in Albert’s Aristotelian paraphrases generally. But it is also Augustinian, and Platonic and Neo-Platonic. Albert is capable of defending opposite views in the same treatise; and in spite of best intentions, he does not succeed[Pg 427] in harmonizing what he draws from Aristotle, with what he takes from Augustine. Hence his works nowhere present a system of psychology which might be called Albert’s, either through creation or consistent selection. But at least he has gathered, and bestowed somewhere, all the accessible material.[569]

Tome III. of Albert’s Opera contains also his Aristotelian paraphrase, Metaphysicorum libri XIII. In this vera sapientia philosophiae, he follows Aristotle closely, save where orthodoxy compels deviation.[570] Tome IV. contains his paraphrasing expositions, Ethica and In octo libros politicorum Aristotelis commentarii. Tome V. contains paraphrases of Aristotle’s minor natural treatises,—parva naturalia; to wit, the Liber de sensu et sensato, treating problems of sense-perception; next the Liber de memoria et reminiscentia, in which the two are thus distinguished: “Memoria motus continuus est in rem, et uniformis. Reminiscibilitas autem est motus quasi interceptus et abscissus per oblivionem.” Treatises follow: De somno et vigilia; De motibus animalium; De aetate, sive de juventute et senectute; De spiritu et respiratione; De morte et vita; De nutrimento et nutribile; De natura et origine animae; De unitate intellectus contra Averroem (a controversial tract); De intellectu et intelligibile (an important psychological writing); De natura locorum; De causis proprietatum elementorum; De passionibus aeris, sive de vaporum impressionibus; and next and last, saving some minor tracts, Albert’s chief botanical work, De vegetabilibus.

Aristotle’s Botany was lost, and Albert’s work was based on the De plantis of Nicolas of Damascus, a short compend vulgarly ascribed to Aristotle, but really made in the first century, and passing through numerous translations from one language to another, before Albert accepted it as the composition of the Stagirite. It consisted of two short books; Albert’s work contained seven long ones, and made the most important work on botany since the times of Aristotle[Pg 428] and his pupil Theophrastus. In opening, Albert says that generalities applicable to all animate things have been already presented, and now it is time to consider more especially and in turn, vegetabilia, sensibilia, rationabilia. In the first eight chapters of his first book, Albert follows his supposed Aristotelian source, and then remarks that the translation of the Philosopher’s treatise is so ignorantly made that he will himself take up in order the six problems thus far incompetently discussed. So he considers whether plants have souls; whether plant-souls feel and desire; whether plants sleep; as to sex in plants; whether without sex they can propagate their species; and as to their hidden life.

In the second book, having again bewailed the insufficiency of his source, Albert takes up the classification of plants, and proceeds with a description of their various parts, then passes on to the shape of leaves, the generation and nature of flowers, their colour, odour, and shape. Liber III., still as an independent digressio, discusses seeds and fruit. In Liber IV. Albert returns to his unhappy source, and his matter declines in interest; but again, in Liber V., he frees himself in a digressio on the properties and effects of plants, gathered from many sources, some of which are foolish enough. His sixth book is a description of trees and other plants in alphabetical order. The last and seventh is devoted to agriculture.[571]

In the De vegetabilibus, Albert, as an expounder of natural knowledge, is at his best. A less independent and intelligent production is his enormous treatise De animalibus libri XXVI., which fills the whole of Tome IV. of Albert’s Opera. A certain Thomas of Cantimpré, an admiring pupil of Albert, may have anticipated the above-named work of his teacher by his own compilation, De naturis rerum, which appears to have been composed shortly before the middle of the thirteenth century. Its descriptions of animals, although borrowed and uncritical, were at least intended to describe them actually, and were not merely fashioned for the moral’s sake, after the manner of the Physiologus,[572] and many a compilation of the[Pg 429] early Middle Ages. Yet the work contains moralities enough, and plenty of the fabulous. But Thomas diligently gathered information as he might, and from Aristotle more than any other. Thus, in his lesser way, he, as well as Albert, represents the tendency of the period to interest itself in the realities, as well as in the symbolisms, of the natural world.

Albert’s work is not such an inorganic compilation as Thomas’s. He has paraphrased the ten books of Aristotle’s natural histories, his four books on the parts of animals, and his five books on their generation. To these nineteen, he has added seven books on the nature of animal bodies and on their grades of perfection; and then on quadrupeds, birds, aquatic animals, snakes, and small bloodless creatures. Besides Aristotle, he draws on Avicenna, Galen, Ambrose (!), and others, including Thomas of Cantimpré. Thus, his work is made up mainly of the ancient written material. Moreover, Albert is kept from a natural view of his subject through the need he feels to measure animals by the standards of human capacity, and learn to know them through knowing man. His digressiones usually discuss abstract problems, as, for instance, whether beyond the four elements, any fifth principle enters the composition of animal bodies. As for his anatomy, he describes the muscles, and calls the veins nerves, having no real knowledge of the latter. He corrects few ancient errors, either anatomical or physiological; and his own observations, occasionally referred to in his work, scarcely win our respect. Nor does he exclude fabulous stories, or the current superstitions as to the medicinal or magical effect of parts of certain animals. On the whole, Albert’s merit in the province of Zoology lies in his introduction of the Aristotelian data and conceptions to the mediaeval Latin West.[573]

After Tome IV. of Albert’s Opera, follow many portly tomes, the contents of which need not detain us. There are enormous commentaries on the Psalms and Prophets, and the Gospels (Tomes VII.-XI.); then a tome of sermons, then a tome of commentaries on the Hierarchies of Pseudo-Dionysius; and three tomes of commentaries on the Lombard’s Sentences,—commentaries, that is to say, upon works which stood close[Pg 430] to Scripture in authority. With these we reach the end of Albert’s labours in paraphrase and commentary, and pass to his more constructive work. Of course, the first and chief is his Summa theologiae, contained in Tomes XVII. and XVIII. of the Opera. With Albert, theology is a science, a branch of systematic knowledge, the highest indeed, and yet one among others. This science, says he in the Prologue to his Summa,

“... is of all sciences the most entitled to credence—certissimae credulitatis et fidei. Other sciences, concerning creatures, possess rationes immobiles, yet those rationes are mobiles because they are in created things. But this science founded in rationibus aeternis is immutable both secundum esse and secundum rationem. And since it is not constituted of the sensible and imaginable, which are not quite cleared of the hangings of matter, plainly it, alone or supremely, is science: for the divine intellect is altogether intellectual, being the light and cause of everything intelligible; and from it to us is the divine science.”

Albert’s dialectic is turgid enough, and lacks the lucidity of his pupil. Yet his reasoning may be weighty and even convincing. Intellect, Reason and its realm of that which is known through Reason, is higher than sense perceptions and imaginations springing from them: it affords the surest knowledge; the science that treats of pure reason, which is in God, is the surest and noblest of sciences. Albert clearly defines the province and nature of theology.

“It is scientia secundum pietatem; it is not concerned with the knowable (scibile) simply as such, nor with the knowable universally; but only as it inclines us to Piety. Piety, as Augustine says, is the worship of God, perfected by faith, hope, charity, prayer, and sacrifices. Thus theology is the science of what pertains to salvation; for piety conduces to salvation.”[574]

The Summa theologiae treats of the encyclopaedic matter of the sacred science, in the order and arrangement with which we are familiar.[575] It is followed (Tome XIX.) by Albert’s Summa de creaturis, a presentation of God’s creation, omitting the special topics set forth in the De vegetabilibus and De animalibus. It treats of creation, of[Pg 431] matter, of time and eternity, of the heavens and celestial bodies, of angels, their qualities and functions, and the hierarchies of them; of the state of the wicked angels, of the works of the six days, briefly; and then of man, soul and body, very fully; of man’s habitation and the order and perfection of the universe. Thus the Summa de creaturis treats of the world and man as God’s creation; but it is not directly concerned with man’s salvation, which is the distinguishing purpose of a Summa theologiae, however encyclopaedic such a work may be.

Two tomes remain of Albert’s opera, containing much that is very different from anything already considered. Tome XX. is devoted to the Virgin Mary, and is chiefly made up of two prodigious tracts: De laudibus beatae Mariae Virginis libri XII., and the Mariale, sive quaestiones super evangelium, Missus est angelus Gabriel. These works—it is disputed whether Albert was their author—are a glorification, indeed a deification, of Mary. They are prodigious; they are astounding. The worship of Mary is gathered up in them, of Mary the chief and best beloved religious creation of the Middle Ages; only not a creation, strictly speaking, for the Divine Virgin, equipped with attribute and quality, sprang from the fecund matrix of the early Church. The works before us represent a simpler piety than Albert’s Summa theologiae. They contain satisfying, consoling statements, not woven of dialectic. And the end is all that the Mary-loving soul could wish. “Christ protects the servants of His genetrix:—and so does Mary, as may be read in her miracles, protect us from our bodily enemies, and from the seducers of souls.”[576] The praises of Mary will seem marvellous indeed to anyone turning over the tituli of books and chapters. There is here a whole mythology, and a universal symbolism. Symbolically, Mary is everything imaginable; she has every virtue and a mass of power and privileges. She is the adorable and chief efficient Goddess mediating between the Trinity and the creature man.

Tome XXI., last tome of all, has a variety of writings, some of which may not be Albert’s. Among them is a work[Pg 432] of sweet and simple piety, a work of turning to God as a little child; and one would be loath to take it away from this man of learning. De adhaerendo Deo is its title, which tells the story. Albert wished at last to write something presenting man’s ultimate perfection, so far as that might be realized in this life. So he writes this little tract of chamber-piety, as to how one should cling to Christ alone. Yet he cannot disencumber himself of his lifelong methods of composition. He might conceive and desire; but it was not for him to write a tract to move the heart. The best he can say is that the end of all our study and discipline is intendere et quiescere in Domino Deo intra te per purissimum intellectum, et devotissimum affectum sine phantasmatibus et implicationibus. The great scholar would come home at last, like a little child, if he only could.



[Pg 433]



I. Thomas’s Conception of Human Beatitude.
II. Man’s Capacity to know God.
III. How God knows.
IV. How the Angels know.
V. How Men know.
VI. Knowledge through Faith perfected in Love.



With Albert it seemed most illuminating to outline the masses of his work of Aristotelian purveyorship and inchoate reconstruction of the Christian encyclopaedia in conformity with the new philosophy. Such a treatment will not avail for Thomas. His achievement, even measured by its bulk, was as great as Albert’s. But its size and encyclopaedic inclusiveness do not represent its integral excellences. The intellectual qualities of Thomas, evinced in his work, are of a higher order than those included in intelligent diligence, however exceptional. They must be disengaged from out of the vast product of their energies, in order that they may be brought together, and made to appear in the organic correlation which they held in the mind of the most potent genius of scholasticism.

We are pleased to find some clue to a man’s genius in the race and place from which he draws his origin. So for whatever may be its explanatory value as to Thomas, one may note that he came of Teutonic stocks, which for some generations had been domiciled in the form-giving Italian land. The mingled blood of princely Suabian and Norman lines flowed in him; the nobility of his father’s house, the[Pg 434] Counts of Aquinum, was equalled by his mother’s lineage. Probably in 1225 he was born, in Southern Italy, not far from Monte Cassino. Thither, as a child, he was sent to school to the monks, and stayed with them through childhood’s formative period. His education did not create the mind which it may have had part in directing to sacred study. Near his tenth year, the extraordinary boy was returned to Naples, there to study the humanities and philosophy under selected masters. When eighteen, he launched himself upon the intellectual currents of the age by joining the Dominican Order. Stories have come down of the violent, but fruitless opposition of his family. In two years, with true instinct, Thomas had made his way from Naples to the feet of Albert in Cologne. Thenceforth the two were to be together, as their tasks permitted, and the loyal relationship between master and scholar was undisturbed by the latter’s transcendent genius. Plato had the greatest pupil, and Aristotle the greatest master, known to fame. That pupil’s work was a redirecting of philosophy. The work of pupil Thomas perfected finally the matter upon which his master laboured; and the master’s aged eyes beheld the finished structure that was partly his, when the pupil’s eyes had closed. Thomas, dying, left Albert to defend the system that was to be called “Thomist,” after him who constructed and finished it to its very turret points, rather than “Albertist,” after him who prepared the materials.

To return to the time when both still laboured. Thomas in 1245 accompanied his master to Paris, and three years later went back with him to Cologne. Thereafter their duties often separated them. We know that in 1252 Thomas was lecturing at Paris, and that he there received with Bonaventura the title of magister in 1257. After this he is found south of the Alps; it was in the year 1263 that Urban IV. at Rome encouraged him to undertake a critical commentary upon Aristotle, based on a closer rendering into Latin of the Greek. In 1268, at the height of his academic fame, he is once more at Paris; which he leaves for the last time in 1272, having been directed to establish a studium generale at Naples. Two years later[Pg 435] he died, on his way to advise the labours of the Council assembled at Lyons.[577]

Thomas wrote commentaries upon the Aristotelian De interpretatione and Posterior Analytics; the Physics, the De coelo et mundo, the Meteorum, the Metaphysics, Ethics, Politics, and certain other Aristotelian treatises. His work shows such a close understanding of Aristotle as the world had not known since the days of the ancient Peripatetics. Of course, he lectured on the Sentences, and the result remains in his Commentaries on them. He lectured, and the resulting Commentaries exist in many tomes, on the greater part of both the Old and New Testaments. It would little help our purpose to catalogue in detail his more constructive and original works, wherein he perfected a system of philosophy and sacred knowledge. Chief among them were the Summa contra Gentiles and the Summa theologiae, the latter the most influential work of all western mediaeval scholasticism. Many of his more important shorter treatises are included in the Quaestiones disputatae, and the Quodlibetalia. They treat of many matters finally put together in the Summa theologiae. De malo in communi, de peccatis, etc.; De anima; De virtutibus in communi, etc.; De veritate; De ideis; De cognitione angelorum; De bono; De voluntate; De libero arbitrio; De passionibus animae; De gratia;—such are titles drawn from the Quaestiones. The Quodlibetalia were academic disputations held in the theological faculty, upon any imaginable thesis having theological bearing. Some of them still appear philosophical, while many seem bizarre to us; for example: Whether an angel can move from one extreme to the other without passing through the middle. One may remember that such questions had been put, and put again, from the time of the Church Fathers. This question answered by Thomas whether an angel may pass from one extreme to the other without traversing the middle is pertinent to the conception of angels as completely immaterial beings,—a conception upon the elaboration of which theologians expended much ingenious thought.

In the earlier Middle Ages, when men were busy putting[Pg 436] together the ancient matter, the personalities of the writers may not clearly appear. It is different in the twelfth century, and very different in the thirteenth, when the figures of at least its greater men are thrown out plainly by their written works. Bonaventura is seen lucidly reasoning, but with his ardently envisioning piety ever reaching out beyond; the personality of Albert most Teutonically wrestles itself into salience through the many-tomed results of his very visible efforts; when we come to Roger Bacon, we shall find wormwood, and many higher qualities of mind, flowing in his sentences. And the consummate fashioning faculty, the devout and intellectual temperament of Thomas, are writ large in his treatises. His work has unity; it is a system; it corresponds to the scholastically creative personality, from the efficient concord of whose faculties it proceeded. The unity of Thomas’s personality lay in his conception of man’s summum bonum, which sprang from his Christian faith, but was constructed by reason from foundation to pinnacle; and it is evinced in the compulsion of an intellectual temperament that never let the pious reasoner’s energies or appetitions stray loitering or aberrant from that goal. Likewise the unity of his system consists in its purpose, which is to present that same summum bonum, credited by faith, empowered, if not empassioned, by piety, and constructed by reason. To fulfil this purpose in its utmost compass, reason works with the material of all pertinent knowledge; fashioning the same to complete logical consistency of expression.

Therefore, it is from his conception of this summum bonum as from a centre of illumination, that we may trace the characteristic qualities alike of Thomas and his work. His faith, his piety, and his intellectual nature are revealed in his thought of supreme felicity. Man’s chief good being the ground of the system, the thought and study which Thomas puts upon the created universe and upon God, regarded both as Creator and in the relationships of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, conduce to make large and sure and ample this same chief good of man. To it likewise conduce the Incarnation, and the Sacraments springing therefrom; in accord with it, Thomas accepts or constructs his[Pg 437] metaphysics, his psychology, his entire thought of human capacity and destiny, and sets forth how nearly man’s reason may bring him to this goal, and where there is need of divine grace. In this goal, moreover, shall be found the sanction of human knowledge, and the justification of the right enjoyment of human faculties; it determines what elements of mortal life may be gathered up and carried on, to form part of the soul’s eternal beatitude.

Thomas’s intellectual powers work together in order to set his thought of man’s summum bonum on its surest foundations, and make clear its scope: his faculty of arrangement, and serious and lucid presentation; his careful reasoning, which never trips, never overlooks, and never either hurries or is taken unprepared; his marvellous unforgetfulness of everything which might remotely bear on the subject; his intellectual poise, and his just weighing of every matter that should be taken into the scales of his determination. Observing these, we may realize how he seemed to his time a new intellectual manifestation of God’s illuminating grace. There was in him something unknown before; his argument, his exposition, was new in power, in interest, in lucidity. On the quality of newness the wretched old biographer rings his reiteration:

“For in his lectures he put out new topics (articulos), inventing a new and clear way of drawing conclusions and bringing new reasons into them, so that no one, who had heard him teach new doubts and allay them by new arguments, would have doubted that God had illumined with rays of new light one who became straightway of such sure judgment, that he did not hesitate to teach and write new opinions, which God had deigned newly to inspire.”[578]

His biographer’s view is justified. Thomas was the greatest of the schoolmen. His way of teaching, his translucent exposition, came to his hearers as a new inspiration. Only Bonaventura (likewise Italian-born) may be compared with him for clearness of exposition—of solution indeed; and Thomas is more judicial, more supremely intellectual; his way of treatment was a stronger[Pg 438] incitement and satisfaction to at least the minds of his auditors. Albert, with his mass of but half-conquered material, could not fail to show, whether he would or not, the doubt-breeding difficulties of the new philosophy, which was yet to be worked into Christian theology. Thomas exposed every difficulty and revealed its depths; but then he solved and adjusted everything with an argumentation from whose careful inclusiveness no questions strayed unshepherded. Placed with Thomas, Albert shows as the Titan whose strength assembles the materials, while Thomas is the god who erects the edifice. The material that Thomas works with, and many of his thoughts and arguments, are to be found in Albert; and the pupil knew his indebtedness to the great master, who survived him to defend his doctrines. But what is not in Albert, is Thomas, Thomas himself, with his disentangled reasoning, his clarity, his organic exposition, his final construction of the mediaeval Christian scheme.[579]

In the third book of his Summa philosophica contra Gentiles, and in the beginning of Pars prima secundae of his Summa theologiae, Thomas expounds man’s final end, ultimus finis, which is his supreme good or perfect beatitude. The exposition in the former work, dating from the earlier years of the author’s academic activities, seems the simpler at first reading; but the other includes more surely Thomas’s last reasoning, placed in the setting of argument and relationship which he gave it in his greatest work. We shall follow the latter, borrowing, however, from the former when its phrases seem to present the matter more aptly to our non-scholastic minds. The general position of the topic is the same in both Summae; and Thomas gives the reason in the Prologus to Pars prima secundae of the Summa theologiae. His way of doing this is significant:

[Pg 439]“Man is declared to be made in the image of God in this sense (as Damascenus[580] says) that by ‘image’ is meant intellectual, free to choose, and self-potent to act. Therefore, after what has been said of the Exemplar God, and of those things which proceed from the divine power according to its will, there remains for us to consider His image, to wit, man, in so far as he is himself the source (principium) of his acts, possessing free will and power over them.”

Thereupon Thomas continues, opening his first Quaestio:[581]

“First one must consider the final end (ultimus finis) of human life, and then those things through which man may attain this end, or deviate from it. For one must accept from an end the rationale of those things which are ordained to that end.”

Assuming the final end of human life to be beatitude, Thomas considers wherein man as a rational creature may properly have one final end, on account of which he wills all that he wills. Quaestio ii. shows that man’s beatitude cannot consist in riches, honours, fame, power, pleasures of the body, or in any created good, not even in the soul. Man gains his beatitude through the soul; but in itself the soul is not man’s final end. The next Quaestio is devoted to the gist of the matter: what beatitude is, and what is needed for it. Thomas first shows in what sense beatitude is something increate (increatum). He has already pointed out that end (finis) has a twofold meaning: the thing itself which we desire to obtain, and the fruition of it.

“In the first sense, the final end of man is an increate good, to wit God, who alone with His infinite goodness can perfectly fulfil the wish (voluntas) of man. In the second sense the final end of man is something created existing in himself; which is nought else than attainment or fruition (adeptio vel fruitio) of the final end. The final end is called beatitude. If then man’s beatitude is viewed as cause or object, it is something increate; but if it is considered in its beatific essence (quantum ad ipsam essentiam beatitudinis) it is something created.”

Thomas next shows:

“... that inasmuch as man’s beatitude is something created existing in himself, it is necessary to regard it as action (operatio).[Pg 440] For beatitude is man’s ultimate perfection. But everything is perfect in so far as it is actually (actu, i.e. in realized actuality): for potentiality without actuality is imperfect. Therefore beatitude should consist in man’s ultimate actuality. But manifestly action (operatio) is the final actuality of the actor (operantis); as the Philosopher shows, demonstrating that everything exists for its action (propter suam operationem). Hence it follows of necessity that man’s beatitude is action.”

The next point to consider is whether beatitude is the action of man’s senses or his intellect. Drawing distinctions, Thomas points out that

“the action of sense cannot pertain to beatitude essentially; because man’s beatitude essentially consists in uniting himself to the increate good; to which he cannot be joined through the action of the senses. Yet sense-action may pertain to beatitude as an antecedent or consequence: as an antecedent, for the imperfect beatitude attainable in this life, where the action of the senses is a prerequisite to the action of the mind; as a consequence, in that perfect beatitude which is looked for in heaven; because, after the resurrection, as Augustine says, from the very beatitude of the soul, there may be a certain flowing back into the body and its senses, perfecting them in their actions. But not even then will the action by which the human mind is joined to God depend on sense.”

Beatitude then is the action of man’s intellectual part; and Thomas next inquires, whether it is an action of the intelligence or will (intellectus aut voluntatis). With this inquiry we touch the pivot of Thomas’s attitude, wherein he departs from Augustine, in apparent reliance on the word of John: “This is eternal life that they should know thee, the one true God.” Life eternal is man’s final end; and therefore man’s beatitude consists in knowledge of God, which is an act of mind. Thomas argues this at some length. He refers to the distinction between what is essential to the existence of beatitude, and what is joined to it per accidens, like enjoyment (delectatio).

“I say then, that beatitude in its essence cannot consist in an act of will. For it has appeared that beatitude is the obtaining (consecutio) of the final end. But obtaining does not consist in any act of will; for will attaches to the absent when one desires it, as well as to the present in which one rests delighted. It is evident that the desire for an end is not an obtaining of it, but a movement[Pg 441] toward it. Enjoyment attaches to will from the presence of the end; but not conversely does anything become present because the will shall delight in it. Therefore there must be something besides an act of will, through which the end may become present to the will. This is plain respecting the ends of sense (fines sensibiles). For if to obtain money were an act of will, the miser would have obtained it from the beginning. And so it comes to pass with respect to an end conceived by the mind; we obtain it when it becomes present to us through an act of the intellect; and then the delighted will rests in the end obtained. Thus, therefore, the essence of beatitude consists in an act of mind. But the delight which follows beatitude pertains to will, even in the sense in which Augustine says: ‘beatitudo est gaudium de veritate,’ because indeed joy is the consummation of beatitude.”

The supremely intellectual attitude of the Angelic Doctor, shows at once, and as it were universally, in his conviction of the primacy of the true over the good, and of knowledge over will. Sometimes he argues these points directly; and again, his temperamental attitude appears in the course of argument upon other points. For example, Quaestio xvi. of Pars prima has for its subject Veritas. And in the first article, which discusses whether truth is in the thing (in re) or only in the mind, he argues thus:

“As good signifies that upon which desire (appetitus) is bent, so true signifies that at which understanding aims. There is this difference between desire and understanding or any kind of cognition: cognition exists in so far as what is known (cognitum) is in the knower; but desire is as the desirous inclines toward the desired. Thus the end (terminus == finis) of desire, which is the good, is in the desirable thing; but the end of knowing, which is the true, is in mind itself.”

In Articulus 4, Thomas comes to his point: that the true secundum rationem (i.e. according to its formal nature) is prior to the good.

“Although both the good and the true have been taken as convertible with being, yet they differ in their conception (ratione); and that the true is prior to the good appears from two considerations: First, the true is more closely related to being, which is prior to the good; for the true regards being itself, simply and directly; while the ratio of the good follows being as in some way perfect, and therefore desirable. Secondly, cognition naturally precedes desire.[Pg 442] Therefore, since the true regards cognition, and the good regards desire, the true is prior to the good secundum rationem.”

This argument, whatever validity it may have, is significant of its author’s predominantly intellectual temperament, and consistent with his conception of man’s supreme beatitude as the intellectual vision of God. Obviously, moreover, the setting of the true above the good is another way of stating the primacy of knowledge over will, which is also maintained: “Will and understanding (intellectus) mutually include each other: for the understanding knows the will; and the will wills that the understanding should know.”[582] Evidently all rational beings have will as well as understanding; God wills, the Angels will, man wills. Indeed, how could knowledge progress but for the will to know? Yet of the two, considered in themselves, understanding is higher than will—

“for its object is the ratio, the very essential nature, of the desired good, while the object of will is the desired good whose ratio is in the understanding.... Yet will may be the higher, if it is set upon something higher than the understanding.... When the thing in which is the good is nobler than the soul itself, in which is the rational cognizance (ratio intellecta), the will, through relation to that thing, is higher than the understanding. But when the thing in which is the good, is lower than the soul, then in relation to that thing, the understanding is higher than the will. Wherefore the love of God is better than the cognizance (cognitio); but the cognizance of corporeal things is better than the love. Yet taken absolutely, the understanding is higher than the will.”[583]

These positions of the Angelic Doctor were sharply opposed in his lifetime and afterwards. Without entering the lists, let us rather follow him on his evidently Aristotelian path, which quickly brings him to his next conclusion: “That beatitude consists in the action of the speculative rather than the practical intellect, as is evident from three arguments:

“First, if man’s beatitude is action, it ought to be the man’s best (optima) action. But man’s best action is that of his best faculty in respect to the best object. The best faculty is intelligence, whose best object is the divine good, which is not an object of the practical,[Pg 443] but of the speculative intelligence. Wherefore, in such action, to wit, in contemplation of things divine, beatitude chiefly consists. And because every one seems to be that which is best in him, as is said in the Ethics, so such action is most proper to man and most enjoyable.

“Secondly, the same conclusion appears from this, that contemplation above all is sought on account of itself. The perfection (actus, full realization) of the practical intelligence is not sought on account of itself, but for the sake of action: the actions themselves are directed toward some end. Hence it is evident that the final end cannot consist in the vita activa, which belongs to the practical intelligence.

“Thirdly, it is plain from this, that in the vita contemplativa man has part with those above him, to wit, God and the Angels, unto whom he is made like through beatitude; but in those matters which belong to the vita activa, other animals, however imperfectly, have somehow part with him.

“And so the final and perfect beatitude which is looked for in the life to come, in principle consists altogether in contemplation. But the imperfect beatitude which may be had here, consists first and in principle in contemplation, and secondly in the true operation of the practical intellect directing human actions and passions, as is said in the tenth book of the Ethics.”

It being thus shown that perfect beatitude lies in the action of the speculative intelligence, Thomas next shows that it cannot consist in consideration of the speculative sciences—

“for the consideration of a science does not reach beyond the potency (virtus) of the principles of that science, seeing that the whole science is contained potentially (virtualiter) in its principles. But the principles of speculative sciences are received through the senses, as the Philosopher makes clear. Therefore the entire consideration of the speculative sciences cannot be extended beyond that to which a cognition of sense-objects (sensibilium) is able to lead. Man’s final beatitude, which is his perfection, cannot consist in the cognition of sense-objects. For no thing is perfected by something inferior, except as there may be in the inferior some participation in a superior. Evidently the nature (forma) of a stone, or any other sensible thing, is inferior to man, save in so far as something higher than the human intelligence has part in it, like the light of reason.... But since there is in sensible forms some participation in the similitude of spiritual substances, the consideration of the speculative sciences is, in a certain way, participation in true and perfect beatitude.”

[Pg 444]Neither can perfect beatitude consist in knowledge of the higher, entirely immaterial, or, as Thomas calls them, separate (separatae) substances, to wit, the Angels. Because it cannot consist in that which is the perfection of intelligence only from participation. The object of the intelligence is the true. Whatever has truth only through participation in something else cannot make the contemplating intelligence perfect with a final perfection. But the angels have their being (esse) as they have their truth, from the participation of the divine in them. Whence it remains that only the contemplation of God, Who alone is truth through His essential being, can make perfectly blessed. “But,” adds Thomas, “nothing precludes the expectation of some imperfect beatitude from contemplating the angels, and even a higher beatitude than lies in the consideration of the speculative sciences.”

So the conclusion is that “the final and perfect beatitude can be only in the vision of the divine essence. The proof of this lies in the consideration of two matters: first, that man is not perfectly blessed (beatus) so long as there remains anything for him to desire or seek; secondly, that the perfection of every capacity (potentiae), is adjudged according to the nature (ratio) of its object.” And a patent line of argument leads to the unavoidable conclusion: “For perfect beatitude it is necessary that the intellect should attain to the very essence of the first cause. And thus it will have its perfection through union with God as its object.”

There are few novel thoughts in Thomas’s conception of man’s supreme beatitude. But he has taken cognizance of all pertinent considerations, and put the whole matter together with stable coherency. He continues, discussing in the succeeding Quaestiones a number of important matters incidental to his central determination of the nature of man’s supreme good. Thus he shows how joy (delectatio) is a necessary accompaniment of beatitude, which, however, in principle consists in the action of the mind, which is visio, rather than in the resulting delectatio. The latter consists in a quieting or satisfying of the will, through the goodness of that in which it is satisfied. When the will is satisfied in any action, that results from the goodness of the action; and the good lies[Pg 445] in the action itself rather than in the quieting of the will.[584] Here Thomas’s reasoning points to an active ideal, an ideal of energizing, rather than repose. But he concludes that for beatitude “there must be a concurrence of visio, which is the perfect cognizance of the intelligible end; the getting it, which implies its presence; and the joy or fruition, which implies the quieting of that which loves in that which is loved.”[585] Thomas also shows how rectitude of will is needed, and discusses whether a body is essential; his conclusion being that a body is not required for the perfect beatitude of the life to come; yet he gives the counter considerations, showing the conduciveness of the perfected body to the soul’s beatitude even then. Next he follows Aristotle in pointing out how material goods may be necessary for the attainment of the imperfect beatitude possible on earth, while they are quite impertinent to the perfect beatitude of seeing God; and likewise he shows how the society of friends is needed here, but not essential hereafter, and yet a concomitant to our supreme felicity.

The course of argument of the Liber iii. of the Contra Gentiles is not dissimilar. A number of preliminary chapters show how all things tend to an end; that the end of all is God; and that to know God is the end of every intellectual being. Next, that human felicitas does not consist in all those matters, in which the Summa theologiae also shows that beatitude does not lie; but that it consists in contemplation of God. He puts his argument simply:

“It remains that the ultimate felicity of man lies in contemplation of truth. For this is the sole action (operatio) of man which is proper to man alone. This alone is directed to nothing else, as an end; since the contemplation of truth is sought for its own sake. Through this action, likewise, man is joined to higher substances (beings) through likeness of action, and through knowing them in some way. For this action, moreover, man is most sufficient by himself, needing but little external aid. To this also all other human acts seem to be directed as to an end. For to the perfection of contemplation, soundness of body is needed, to which all the arts of living are directed. Also quiet from the disturbance of passions is required, to which one comes through the moral virtues,[Pg 446] and prudence; and quiet also from tumults, to which end all rules of civil life are ordained; and so, if rightly conceived, all human business seems to serve the contemplation of truth. Nor is it possible for the final felicity of man to consist in the contemplation which is confined to an intelligence of beginnings (principiorum), which is most imperfect and general (universalis), containing a knowledge of things potentially: it is the beginning, not the end of human study. Nor can that felicity lie in the contemplation of the sciences, which pertain to the lowest things, since felicity ought to lie in the action of the intelligence in relationship to the noblest intelligible verities. It remains that man’s final felicity consists in the contemplation of wisdom pursuant to a consideration of things divine. From which it also is evident by the way of induction, what was before proved by arguments, that the final felicity of man consists only in contemplation of God.”[586]

Having reached this central conclusion of the Contra Gentiles, as well as of the Summa theologiae, Thomas proceeds to trim it further, so as clearly to differentiate that knowledge of God in which lies the ultimate felicity of intelligent beings from other ways of knowing God, which do not fully represent this supreme and final bliss. He first excludes the sort of common and confused knowledge of God, which almost all men draw from observing the natural order of things; then he shuts out the knowledge of God derived from logical demonstration, through which, indeed, one rather approaches a proper knowledge of Him;[587] next, he will not admit that supreme felicity lies in the cognition of God through faith; since that is still imperfect. This felicity consists in seeing[588] the divine essence, an impossibility in this life, when we see as in a glass. The supreme felicity is attainable only after death. Hereupon Thomas continues with the very crucial discussion of the capacity of the rational creature to know God. But instead of following him further in the Contra Gentiles, we will rather turn to his final presentation of this question in his Summa theologiae.

 [Pg 447]


The great Summa, having opened with an introductory consideration of the character of sacra doctrina,[589] at once fixes its attention upon the existence and attributes of God. These having been reviewed, Thomas begins Quaestio xii. by saying, that “as we have now considered what God is in His own nature (secundum se ipsum) it remains to consider what He is in our cognition, that is, how He is known by creatures.” The first question is whether any created intelligence whatsoever may be able to see God per essentiam. Having stated the counter arguments, and relying on John’s “we shall see Him as He is,” Thomas proceeds with his solution thus:

“Since everything may be knowable so far as it exists in actuality,[590] God, who is pure actuality, without any mingling of potentiality, is in Himself, most knowable. But what is most knowable in itself, is not knowable to every intelligence because of the exceeding greatness of that which is to be known (propter excessum intelligibilis supra intellectum); as the sun, which is most visible, may not be seen by a bat, because of the excess of light. Mindful of this, some have asserted that no created intelligence could behold the essential nature (essentiam) of God.

“But this is a solecism. For since man’s final beatitude consists in his highest action, which is the action of the intelligence, if the created intelligence is never to be able to see the essential nature of God, either it will never obtain beatitude, or its beatitude will consist in something besides God: which is repugnant to the faith. For the ultimate perfection of a rational creature lies in that which is the source or principle (principium) of its being. Likewise the argument is against reason. For there is in man a natural desire to know the cause, when he observes the effect; and from this, wonder rises in men. If then the intelligence of the rational creature is incapable of attaining to the first cause of things, an inane desire must be ascribed to nature.

“Wherefore it is simply to be conceded that the blessed may see the essential nature of God.”

So this general conclusion, or assumption, is based on faith, and also leaps, as from the head of Jove, the creature[Pg 448] of unconquerable human need, which never will admit the inaneness of its yearnings. And now, assuming the possibility of seeing God in his true nature, Thomas proves that He cannot be seen thus through the similitude of any created thing: in order to behold God’s essence some divine likeness must be imparted from the seeing power (ex parte visivae potentiae), to wit, the light of divine glory (which is consummated grace) strengthening the intelligence that it may see God. And he next shows that it is impossible to see God by the sense of sight, or any other sense or power of man’s sensible nature. For God is incorporeal. Therefore He cannot be seen through the imagination, but only through the intelligence. Nor can any created intelligence through its natural faculties see the divine essence. “Cognition takes place in so far as the known is in the knower. But the known is in the knower according to the mode and capacity (modus) of the knower. Whence any knower’s knowledge is according to the measure of his nature. If then the being of the thing to be known exceeds the measure of the knowing nature, knowledge of it will be beyond the nature of that knower.” In order to see God in His essential nature, the created intellect needs light created by God: In lumine tuo videbimus lumen. And it may be given to one created intellect to see more perfectly than another.

Do those who see God per essentiam, comprehend Him? No.

“To comprehend God is impossible for any created intelligence. To have any true thought of God is a great beatitude.... Since the created light of glory received by any created intelligence, cannot be infinite, it is impossible that any created intelligence should know God infinitely, and comprehend Him.”

Again he reasons; They who shall see God in His essence will see what they see through the divine essence united to their intelligence; they will see whatever they see at once, and not successively; for the contents of this intellectual, God-granted vision are not apprehended by means of the respective species or general images, but in and through the one divine essence. But in this life, man may not see God in His essential nature:

[Pg 449]“The mode of cognition conforms to the nature of the knower. But our soul, so long as we live in this life, has its existence (esse) in corporeal matter. Wherefore, by nature, it knows only things that have material form, or may through such be known. Evidently the divine essence cannot be known through the natures of material things. Any cognition of God through any created likeness whatsoever, is not a vision of His essence.... Our natural cognition draws its origin from sense; it may extend itself so far as it can be conducted (manuduci) by things of sense (sensibilia). But from them our intelligence may not attain to seeing the divine essence.... Yet since sensible creatures are effects, dependant on a cause, we know from them that God exists, and that as first cause He exceeds all that He has caused. From which we may learn the difference between Himself and His creatures, to wit, that He is not any of those things which He has caused....

“Through grace a more perfect knowledge of God is had than through natural reason. For cognition through natural reason needs both images (phantasmata) received from things of sense, and the natural light of intelligence, through whose virtue we abstract intelligible conceptions from them. In both respects human cognition is aided through the revelation of grace. For the natural light of the intellect is strengthened through the infusion of light graciously given (luminis gratuiti); while the images in the man’s imagination are divinely formed so that they are expressive of things divine, rather than of what naturally is received through the senses, as appears from the visions of the prophets.”[591]

Natural reason stops with the unity of God, and can give no knowledge of the Trinity of divine Persons. Says Thomas:[592]

“It has been shown that through natural reason man can know God only from His creatures. Creatures lead to knowledge of God as effects lead to some knowledge of a cause. Only that may be known of God by natural reason which necessarily belongs to Him as the source of all existences. The creative virtue of God is common to the whole Trinity; it pertains to the unity of essence, not to the distinction of persons. Through natural reason, therefore, those things concerning God may be known which pertain to the unity of essence, but not those which pertain to the distinction of persons.... Who strives to prove the Trinity of Persons by natural reason, doubly disparages faith: first as regards the dignity of faith itself, which concerns invisible things surpassing human reason; secondly as derogating from its efficiency in drawing men[Pg 450] to it. For when any one in order to prove the faith adduces reasons which are not cogent, he falls under the derision of the faithless; for they think that we use such arguments, and that we believe because of them. One shall not attempt to prove things of faith save by authorities, and in discussion with those who receive the authorities. With others it is enough to argue that what the faith announces is not impossible.”

Here Thomas seems rationally to recognize the limits upon reason in discovering the divine nature. In the regions of faith, reason’s feet lack the material footing upon which to mount. So Thomas would assert. But will he stand to his assertion? The shadowy line between reason and faith wavers with him. At least so it seems to us, for whom ontological reasoning has lost reality, and who find proofs of God not so much easier than proofs of the Trinity. But Thomas and the other scholastics dwelt in the region of the metaphysically ideal. To them it was not only real, but the most real; and it was so natural to step across the line of faith, trailing clouds of reason. The feet of such as Thomas are as firmly planted on the one side of the line as on the other. And now, as it might also seem, Thomas, having thus formally reserved the realm of faith, quickly steps across the line, to undertake a tremendous metaphysical exposition of the Trinity, of the distinctions between its Persons, of their properties, respective functions, and relationships; and all this is carried on largely in the categories of Aristotelian philosophy. Yet is he not still consistent with himself? For he surely did not conceive the elements of his discussion to lie in the lucubrations or discoveries of the natural reason; but in the data of revelation, and their explanation by saintly doctors. And was not he also a vessel of their inspiration, a son of faith, who might humbly hope for the light of grace, to transfigure and glorify his natural powers in the service of revealed truth?

Thomas’s ideal is intellectual, and yet ends in faith. His intellectual interests, by faith emboldened, strengthened, and pointed heavenward, make on toward the realisation of that intellectual beatitude which is to be consummate hereafter, when the saved soul’s grace-illumined eye shall re-awaken where it may see face to face.

 [Pg 451]


Knowledge, then, supplemented in this life by faith, is the primary element of blessedness. We now turn our attention to the forms of knowledge and modes of knowing appropriate to the three rational substances: God, angel, man. The first is the absolute incorporeal being, the primal mover, in whom there is no potentiality, but actuality simple and perfect. The second is the created immaterial or “separated” substance, which is all that it is through participation in the uncreate being of its Creator. The third is the composite creature man, made of both soul and body, his capacities conditioned upon the necessities of his dual nature, his sense-perception and imagination being as necessary to his knowledge, as his rational understanding; for whom alone it is true that sense-apprehension may lead to the intelligible verities of God: “etiam sensibilia intellecta manuducunt ad intelligibilia divinorum.”[593]

The earlier Quaestiones of Pars prima, on the nature of God, lead on to a consideration of God’s knowledge and ways of knowing. Those Quaestiones expounded the qualities of God quite as far as comported with Thomas’s realization of the limitation of the human capacity to know God in this life. Quaestio iii. upon the Simplicitas of God, shows that God is not body (corpus); that in Him there is no compositeness of form and material; that throughout His nature, He is one and the same, and therefore that He is His Deitas, His vita, and whatever else may be predicated of Him. Next it is shown (Qu. iv.) that God is perfect; that in Him are the perfectiones of all things, since whatever there may be of perfection in an effect, should be found in the effective cause; and as God is self-existent being, He must contain the whole perfection of being in Himself (totam perfectionem essendi in se). Next, that God is the good (bonum) and the summum bonum; He is infinite; He is in all things (Qu. viii. Art. 1) not as a part of their essence, but as accidens, and as the doer is in his deeds; and not only in their beginning, but so long as they exist; He acts[Pg 452] upon everything immediately, and nothing is distant from Him; God is everywhere: as the soul is altogether in every part of the body, so God entire is in all things and in each. God is in all things created by Him as the working cause; but He is in the rational creature, through grace; as the object of action is in the actor, as the known is in the knower, and the desired in the wishful. God is immutable (Qu. ix.); for as final actuality (actus purus), with no admixture of potentiality, He cannot change; nor can He be moved; since His infinitude comprehends the plenitude of all perfection, there is nothing that He can acquire, and no whither for Him to extend. God is eternal (Qu. x.); for him there is no beginning, nor any succession of time; but an interminable now, an all at once (tota simul), which is the essence of eternity, as distinguished from the successiveness of even infinite time. And God is One (Qu. xi.). “One does not add anything to being, save negation of division. For One signifies nothing else than undivided being (ens indivisum). And from this it follows that One is convertible with being.” That God is One, is proved by His simplicitas; by the infiniteness of His perfection; and by the oneness of the world.

“After a consideration,” now says Thomas, “of those matters which pertain to the divine substance, we may consider those which pertain to its action (operatio). And because certain kinds of action remain in the doer, while others pass out into external effect, we first treat of knowledge and will (for knowing is in the knower and willing in him who wills); and then of God’s power, which is regarded as the source of the divine action passing out into external effect. Then, since knowing is a kind of living, after considering the divine knowledge, the divine life will be considered. And because knowledge is of the true, there will be need to consider truth and falsity. Again since every cognition is in the knower, the rationes (types, essential natures) of things as they are in God the Knower (Deo cognoscente) are called ideas (ideae); and a consideration of these will be joined to the consideration of knowledge.”[594]

Thus clearly laying out his topic, Thomas begins his discussion of God’s knowledge (scientia Dei); of the modes in which God knows and the knowledge which He has. In[Pg 453] God is the most perfect knowledge. God knows Himself through Himself; in Him knowledge and Knower (intellectum and intellectus) are the same.[595] He perfectly comprehends Himself; for He knows Himself so far as He is knowable; and He is absolutely knowable being utter reality (actus purus). Likewise He knows things other than Himself. For He knows Himself perfectly, which implies a knowledge of those things to which His power (virtus) extends. Moreover, He knows all things in their special natures and distinctions from each other: for the perfection, or perfected actuality, of everything is contained in Him; and therefore God in Himself is able to know all things perfectly, and the special nature of everything exists through some manner of participation in the divine perfection. God knows all things in one, to wit, Himself; and not successively, or by means of discursive reasoning. “God’s knowledge is the cause of things. It stands to all created beings as the knowledge of the artificer to the things he makes. God causes things through His knowledge, since His being is His knowing (cum suum esse sit suum intelligere).” His knowledge causes things when it has the will joined with it, and, in so far as it is the cause of things, is called scientia approbationis. God knows things which are not actually (actu). Whatever has been or will be, He knows by the knowledge of sight (scientia visionis, which by implication is equivalent to scientia approbationis). For God’s knowing, which is His being, is measured by eternity; and eternity includes all time, as present, and without succession; so the present vision (intuitus) of God embraces all time and all things existing at any time, as if present. As for whatever is in the power of God or creature, but which never has been or will be, God knows it not as in vision, but simply knows it.

God also knows evil.

“Whoever knows anything perfectly should know whatever might happen to it. There are some good things to which it may happen to be corrupted through evils: wherefore God would not[Pg 454] know the good perfectly, unless He also knew the evil. Everything is knowable so far as it is; but the being (esse) of evil is the privation of good: hence inasmuch as God knows good, He knows evil, as darkness is known through light.”

Thomas now takes up a point curious perhaps to us, but of importance to him and Aristotle: does God know individuals (singularia), the particular as opposed to the universal? This point might seem disposed of in the argument by which Thomas maintained that God knew things in their special and distinct natures. But he now proves that God knows singularia by an argument which bears on his contention that man does not know singularia through the intelligence, but perceives them through sense; and as we shall see, that the angels have no direct knowledge of individuals, being immaterial substances.

“God knows individuals (cognoscit singularia). For all perfections found in creatures pre-exist in higher mode in God. To know (cognoscere) individuals pertains to our perfection. Whence it follows that God must know them. The Philosopher (Aristotle) holds it to be illogical that anything should be known to us, and not to God.... But the perfections which are divided in inferior beings, exist simply and as one in God. Hence, although through one faculty we know universals and what is immaterial, and through another, individuals and what is material; yet God simply, through His intelligence, knows both.... One must hold that since God is the cause of things through His knowledge, the knowledge of God extends itself as far as His causality extends. Wherefore, since God’s active virtue extends itself not only to forms, from which is received the ratio of the universal, but also to matter, it is necessary that God’s knowledge should extend itself to individuals, which are such through matter.”

And replying to a counter-argument Thomas continues:

“Our intelligence abstracts the intelligible species from the individuating principles. Therefore the intelligible species of our intelligence cannot be the likeness of the individual principles; and, for this reason, our intelligence does not know individuals. But the intelligible species of the divine intelligence, which is the essence of God, is not immaterial through abstraction, but through itself; and exists as the principle of all principles entering the composition of the thing, whether principles of species or of[Pg 455] the individual. Therefore through His essence God knows both universals and individuals.”[596]

With these arguments still echoing, Thomas shows that God can know infinite things; also future contingencies; also whatever may be stated (enuntiabilia). His knowledge, which is His substance, does not change. It is speculative knowledge, in so far as relating to His own unchangeable nature, and to whatever He can do, but does not; it is practical knowledge so far as it relates to anything which He does.

Thomas concludes his direct discussion of God’s knowledge, by an application of the Platonic theory of ideas, in which he mainly follows Augustine.

“It is necessary to place ideas in the divine mind. Idea is the Greek for the Latin forma. Thus through ideas are understood the forms of things existing beyond the things themselves. By which we mean the prototype (exemplar) of that of which it is called the form; or the principle of its cognition, in so far as the forms of things knowable are said to be in the knower.”

There must be many ideas or (as Augustine phrases it) stable rationes of things. There is a ratio in the divine mind corresponding to whatever God does or knows.

“Ideas were set by Plato as the principles both of the cognition and the generation of things, and in both senses they are to be placed in the divine mind. So far as idea is the principle of the making of a thing, it may be called the prototype (exemplar), and pertains to practical knowledge (practicam cognitionem); but as the principle of cognition (principium cognoscitivum), it is properly called ratio, and may also pertain to speculative knowledge. In the signification of exemplar, it relates to everything created at any time by God: but when it means principium cognoscitivum, it relates to all things which are known by God, although never coming into existence.”[597]

Such are the divine modes of knowledge. Thomas proceeds to discuss other aspects of the divine nature, the life and power, will and love, which may be ascribed to God. He then passes on to a discussion of the Persons of the Trinity. This completed, he turns to the world of created substances; into which we will follow him so far as to observe[Pg 456] the forms of knowledge and ways of knowing proper to angels and mankind. We shall hereafter have to speak of the divine and angelic love, and of man’s love of God; but here, as our field is intellectual, we will simply recall to mind that Thomas applies a like intellectual conception of beatitude to both God and His rational creatures:

“Beatitude, as has been said, signifies the perfect good of the intellectual nature; as everything desires its perfection, the intellectual [substance] desires to be beata. That which is most perfect in every intellectual nature, is the intellectual operation wherein, in a measure, it grasps all things. Wherefore the beatitude of any created intellectual nature consists in knowing (in intelligendo).”[598]



Thomas regards the creation as a processio, a going out of all creatures from God. Every being (ens) that in any manner (quocumque modo) is, is from God.

“God is the prima causa exemplaris of all things.... For the production of anything, there is needed a prototype (exemplar), in order that the effect may follow a determined form.... The determination of forms must be sought in the divine wisdom. Hence one ought to say that in the divine wisdom are the rationes of all things: these we have called ideas, to wit, prototypal forms existing in the divine mind. Although such may be multiplied in respect to things, yet really they are not other than the divine essence, according as its similitude can be participated in by divers things in divers ways. Thus God Himself is the first exemplar of all. There may also be said to be in created things certain exemplaria of other things, when they are made in the likeness of such others, or according to the same species or after the analogy of some resemblance.”[599]

God not only is the efficient and exemplary ca