Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

ters. An angel was found to defend Balaam's poor beast from his master's rage ; and Christians did not forget that cows and oxen beheld our Saviour's cradle, and that he rode sitting upon an ass.

I remember conversing once for a long time with an old blind hermit, who lived in a recess very high on the side of a precipitous rock which overhangs the ancient monastery of St. Maurice, in Switzerland, where was a little chapel, and a bell which he used to sound for the Angelus.

St. Amet lived as hermit in that very spot, in the reign of Dagobert, in the seventh century. At the foot of the rock is the monastery, where the holy fathers have shewn me presents made by Charlemagne and St. Lewis, and where are the venerable bones of St. Maurice and his companions, and also some of their Roman rings. Never shall I forget a hermit whom I used to see come every night to prayers in a church, and choose the most secluded spot to perform his devotions : the looks and the memory of such men are a continual sermon.

What a picture is there in the following description ! “How goo we now,' sayd Syre Ector, ‘unto some heremyte that wille telle us of our advysyor ; for hit seemeth me we labour alle in vayne; and soo they departed, and rode in to a valeye, and there mette with a squyer whiche rode on an hackney, and they salemed him fayre. "Sire,' sayd Gawayne, 'can thou teche us to ony heremyte? Here is one in a lytel montayne, but it is soo rough, there may no horse go thyder; and therfore ye muste goo upon foote; there shalle ye fynde a poure hows, and there is Nacyen the heremyte, which is the holyest now in this countrey :' and so they departed.”

A writer who describes Provence before the revolution, says, “ On the summit of the lovely island of St. Maud near Toulon is a hermitage, where a hermit lives all alone, an old mariner, and a good man. He has a telescope to observe the signals of the fleet, which he communicates to the tower below.”2

Werner, after composing his celebrated tragedy of Luther, and becoming a Catholic, lived for three years in the hermitage of Pausilyppe in penitence and meditation, before he was ordained priest. At Allou

· Mort d'Arthur, ii. p. 257.

? Soirées Provençales, ii. 282.

the game.

ville, in Normandy, there is a hermitage constructed in a tree, which is eight or nine hundred years old. Naucrastus, brother of St. Basil, retired from the world, and lived in a thick forest on a mountain near the river Iris, with one servant, who followed him ; and here he found some old hermits who had likewise renounced the world. He used to go a hunting, not for the pleasure of the chase, but for the exercise, and to nourish these old men with

After living in this way for five years, he did not return one day from the chase. At length he was found dead with his servant; but no one ever heard how they came by their deaths.2 A hermit who sometimes kills game occurs in Perceforest. Gadiffer, in the evening of a long laborious day, riding through a forest, comes to a lovely spot, with a clear fountain at the foot of a high rock, and a huge chestnut spreading over, and in its branches there was a little hermitage, where it seemed eight persons might sit. Presently he perceived the good old man, who came out, let down his ladder, and offered him lodging for the night. Gadiffer mounted gladly, and found the maisonette” delightful; but then for supper? “Oh, for that," quoth the hermit, “the deer will soon come to drink at the fountain ; and here is a bow, and you can shoot them from here.” “ En verité, beau père, vous parlez comme preud-homme, et selon mon adventure il m'est bien escheu.” After a time there appeared at the fountain a great quantity “of venison;" upon which the knight says to the hermit, “ Beau père, vous me baillerez vostre arc et vos saittes, et je m'en iray a la venyson, car c'est mon droit mestier." “Certes, chevalier, volontiers,” said the hermit : so he shot a roe-buck, and then pressed out the blood, and eat it gladly at supper. When the knight was refreshed, he began, among other things, to ask the hermit, “Dont ce venoit qu'il cestoit logé illec tant hault ?” “ Sire,” said the hermit, “I have been here more than twenty years.

The humanity and generous spirit which distinguished the religious orders made them dear to all, at least to those who had often need of assistance. Thus, in the

[ocr errors]

Archives de la Normandie, 1824.
· Les Vies des Saintes Solitaires d'Orient et d'Occid. iii. 48.
3 Lib. iii.

[ocr errors]

Palmerin of England, when Sir Roseram was wounded, Robrante, his squire, bound up his wounds, and carried him to a convent of friars which was hard by, where he was carefully attended, the brethren of that house being “ holy men, and of good lives, who had all things needful in such cases at hand, remembering that it became them to be charitable for the love of God.” Even hermits kept good wine for strangers.

So did brother Joseph, whose memory is still fresh at St. Magdalena, on the river Sarine, near Fribourg, in whose cell I have myself been. Cavendish thus describes the last journey of Cardinal Wolsey: “The next day, from Nottingham he rode to Leicester Abbey ; and by the way he waxed so sick that he was almost fallen from his mule, so that it was night before we came to the abbey of Leicester, where, at his coming in at the gate, the abbot, with all his convent, met him with divers torches lighte; whom they right honourably received and welcomed with great reverence. To whom my Lord said, Father abbot, I am come hither to leave my

bones

among you,' riding so still, until we came to the stairs of his chamber, where he alighted from his mule.”

It was brother Martin, a monk and priest, who delivered Adelais, the wife of Lothaire, King of Italy, from her dungeon, into which she had been cast by Berenger : he contrived her escape to a wood near the Lake Benacus, where a poor fisherman supported them ; and afterwards, by the assistance of Azzo, a brave knight, she was conducted in safety to the fortress of Canossa. Adelais afterwards married Otho the Great, Emperor of Germany. Ariosto’s hermit must not be forgotten, when sorrowing Isabel would have plunged Zerbino's sword into her breast,

But that a hermit, from his neighbouring rest,
Accustomed oft to seek the fountain wave
His flagon at the cooling stream to fill,
Opposed him to the damsel's evil will.
The reverend father, who, with natural sense,
Abundant goodness happily combined,
And, with ensamples fraught and eloquence,
Was full of charity towards mankind,
With efficacious reasons her did fence,
And to endurance Isabel inclined;
Placing, from ancient Testament and New,
Women, as in a mirror, for her view.

The holy man next made the damsel see,
That save in God there was no true content,
And proved all other hope was transitory,
Fleeting, of little worth, and quickly spent ;
And urged withal so earnestly his plea,
He changed her ill and obstinate intent;
And made her, for the rest of life, desire
To live devoted to her heavenly Sire.

The hermit proceeds to escort the mourner through forests to Provence, that he might leave her in a great convent near Marseilles. 1

In the history of Amadis of Gaul, when Nasciano, the holy hermit, who had brought up Esplandian, heard of the great discord between Lisuarte and King Perion of Gaul, and what danger they were in (how he heard it, is not known, for the hermitage wherein he dwelt forty years was in so remote a part of the forest, that scarcely ever traveller passed that way), he being very weak and infirm, mounted his ass, and with much labour and slow travelling arrived at the Firm Island, to obtain Oriana’s consent that he might reveal the secret of her love to Amadis, whereby he trusted to bring about peace. The touching interview between them would be too long to relate here. He obtained her consent, and hastened to King Lisuarte, who marvelled at his coming, and went to meet him, and fell upon his knees before him, and said, “ Father Nasciano, my friend, and the servant of God, give me your blessing.” The hermit raised his hands, and said, God whom I and all are bound to revere, protect you, and give you such understanding, that your soul may one day enjoy the glory and repose for which it was created, if by your own fault it be not lost.” Then the king gave orders that food should be brought him, and asked him the cause of his coming, saying, “ that he marvelled how so recluse a man, and one of so great age, should have travelled so far.” The hermit made answer, Certes, sir, according to my years, and condition, and inclination, I am now only fit to go from my cell to the altar ; but it behoves all those who would serve our Lord Jesus Christ, and would follow his example, for no trouble or toil to turn aside.” Then he laid before him the whole matter,

- That

1 Canto xxiv. Stewart Rose,

and finally succeeded in bringing about a happy peace. “ For though this good man was in orders, and led so strict a life in so remote a part, he had in his time been a right good knight in the court of King Lisuarte's father, and after of King Falangris ; so that though he was perfect in things divine, he was also well versed in things temporal.”]

Thus, even their journeys were for a holy purpose, as we read in the Lord of the Isles :

With aves many a one,
He comes our feuds to reconcile;
A sainted man from sainted isle :
We will his holy domb abide;

The abbot shall our strife decide. A monastery was an asylum always open for the oppressed and the unhappy. Lesueur, persecuted by his contemporaries, took refuge in the Chartreuse at Paris, where he died in peace, after painting the life of St. Bruno.

When Maria of Sicily, sister to Joanna, Queen of Naples, fled with her children to the monastery of Santa Croce, after the murder of her husband, Charles of Durazzo, by Louis of Hungary, the charitable monks, with great danger to themselves, concealed her during the strict search that was made by the barbarous conqueror. The monks have invariably distinguished themselves as the courageous friends of humanity. During the plague of Florence, many left their estates to the mendicant friars, who attended the sick, when all others, even the parish priests, deserted them : and it was the same during the plague at Marseilles, which called forth the ever memorable exertions of its bishop. All the monastic orders were conspicuous on this occasion : Augustines, Carmelites, Minims, and Capuchins, were then the only men who had zeal and courage.

Happily,” says the Abbé Papon, we have not often occasion to try what this class of men can perform.” The history of this event is not surpassed in interest by the celebrated passages in Thucydides or Boccacio.2 Again, amidst the horrors and perils of war, we find the monks still true to humanity and to their country. One, whose gentle, high, and romantic spirit

1 iv 33, 34.
2 L’Hist. Générale de Provence, par Papon, tom. iv. 15.

« PoprzedniaDalej »