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Where foaming on the shore the tide appears,
O mighty God, be thou our watchful guide."
prayers are finished.
Sudden the lights extinguished, all around
Till rosy morn bespread the eastern sky. “ This solemn scene," observes the translator, “is according to history. Aberat Olysippone prope littus quatuor passuum millia templum sane religiosum et sanctum ab Henrico in honorem S. Virginis ædificatum in id Gama, pridie illius diei quo erat navem conscensurus, se recepit, ut noctem cum religiosis hominibus, qui in ædibus templo conjunctis habitabant, in precibus et votis consumeret.”
When the Cid arrived at Toledo, he declined the king's invitation to be lodged that night in the royal palace of Galiana, saying, “I will not cross the Tagus to-night, but will
pass the night in St. Servans on this side, and hold a vigil there.” And the Cid went into the church of St. Servans, and ordered candles to be placed upon the altar, for he would keep a vigil there ; and there he remained with Minaya and the other good ones, praying to our Lord, and talking in private.
No lordly look nor martial stride;
Forgotten their renown;
And there they knelt them down. A more interesting example occurs in the History of the Crusades, where the brave knights keep the vigil of
the nativity in the church at Bethlehem. The ancients were always ready to admire this practice of chivalry, illustrating in so striking a manner the connexion between the heroic and the religious or contemplative character. It must be confessed by all lovers of wisdom that it was one which might have been conducive to important ends. An old poet relates how the blind god of riches recovered his eyes by remaining an entire night in the temple of Æsculapius ;and surely, without having recourse to any poetic fiction, it might have been expected that one night thus solemnly spent in the silence and awful majesty of God's house, would restore sight to Plutus, give recovering of sight to the blind, awaken the worshipper of mammon to a sense of his own condition, compel him to feel, for some interval at least, that his choice was made in blindness, and that the wages of his lot were death. Pliny says, in a letter describing his mode of life, "Evigilo quum libet, plerumque circa horam primam, sæpe ante, tardius raro : clausæ fenestræ manent;" then he adds,
- Mire enim silentio et tenebris animus alitur. Ab iis, quæ avocant, abductus, et liber, et mihi relictus, non oculos animo, sed animum oculis sequor, qui eadem, quæ mens, vident, quoties non vident alia.”3 The modern poet also has marked the purpose to which this practice may have been subservient, when he expresses his wish to associate with the serious night, and contemplation, her sedate compeer, while the drowsy world is lost in sleep. If it were objected, that it only recommended itself to the fancy, the words of a great modern writer might be urged. persons of the greatest fancy, and such who are most pleased with outward fairness, are most religious. Great understandings make religion lasting and reasonable ; but great fancies make it more scrupulous, strict, operative, and effectual.” Setting controversy aside, it must be allowed that it was the natural result of a feeling heart, warmly interested in the truth of Christian revelation, and deriving not alone a kind of incidental sanction, but almost a positive authority from many passages in the history of our Lord. It was to shepherds keeping watch by night that the angel appeared to announce his birth. It was by
I Gesta Dei per Francos, 578. Aristoph. Plutus, 727.
- We see
seeing the star in the East, that the wise men were led to seek him in the stable of Bethlehem. They who thought themselves bound to imitate and follow Christ, could not forget the nights which he spent alone on the mountains ; how, when he had sent the multitude away, he went up into a mountain apart, and when the evening was come, he was there alone; and how, in the fourth watch of the night, at three o'clock in the morning, the disciples being in a ship, tossed with waves, Jesus went to them walking on the sea. The Church, in the institution of vigils, had regard to divers passages of holy Scripture,—to Isaiah, who saith, “ de nocte vigilat spiritus meus ad te, Deus ;" to David, “media nocte surgebam ad confitendum tibi.” It was at this time that the destroying angel, passing over, smote all the first-born of Egypt, “ Unde et nos vigilare oportet, ne periculis Ægyptiorum ad misceamur,” says an old writer. So also we read of the coming of the Saviour. “ Beati servi illi, quos, cum venerit Dominus, invenerit vigilantes. Et si vespertina hora venerit, et si media nocte, et si galli cantu invenerit eos vigilantes, beati sunt quidem servi illi. Itaque et vos estote parati, quia nescitis quâ horâ filius hominis venturus est.' There is another point of view in which this solemn practice will throw light on the character of chivalry; for it shews not only that the knights of old had learned to associate solitude with religious feeling, but also that they were ready to dare the powers of hell and darkness, from a trust in an Almighty arm that shielded them, and to prove themselves champions against spiritual as well as human foes. This may seem a small matter, but, notwithstanding, it may be doubted, with some reason, whether there are many at the present day who would cheerfully undergo this ordeal, if it were required as a preparatory step to their worldly advancement. Some, I believe, would tremble to find themselves aļone, and unable to hold high converse with the mighty dead. Saint Jerome says, “ When I have been molested with anger or evil thoughts, I have not dared to enter the churches of the martyrs.” If such were the feelings of a saint, what might not common mortals be supposed to experience! What, for instance, King Henry,
| Crodogangi Metens Episcopi Regula Canonicorum, cap. xvi. apud Dacerii Spicil. i.
when he spent the night in prayer in the cathedral of Canterbury, while the pavement was still wet with the blood of St. Thomas à Becket! He must be a very stern philosopher who will make no allowance for the influence of these feelings upon men whose warlike habits must have interfered with their cultivation of philosophy; if, indeed, philosophy would prove the utter absurdity of such notions. But whether it would have led to such conclusions or not, the voice of nature will be heard by the majority of mankind. There is something in the hour itself,
The deep night,
And spirits walk, and ghosts break up their graves ; there is something in the place, which inspires an awe that the boldest will have trouble to overcome.
For “ the church,” as Saint Chrysostom says, and as men will occasionally feel in spite of their own levity, “is the place of angels and of archangels; the court of God, and the image or representment of heaven itself.” However men may wish to ridicule it, there is an impression of mind, of which the poet truly says,
Hearts firm as steel, as marble hard,
Beneath its universal sway. “I believe,” says Sir Thomas Brown, “ that the blessed spirits are not at rest in their graves, but wander solicitous of the affairs of the world; but that those phantoms appear often, and do frequent cemeteries, charnel-houses, and churches, it is because these are the dormitories of the dead, where the devil, like an insolent champion, beholds with pride the spoils and trophies of his victory in Adam." Plato argues it in a manner somewhat similar, when, speaking of the souls of wicked men, which have been intimately united to the body, he says, “ the soul, loaded with the weight of flesh, sinks again towards the visible world ; it goes wandering, as it is said, among the monuments and tombs, where dark phantoms are often seen, such as the shades of guilty souls ought to be, which have departed from life without being previously purified, and have retained somewhat of the visible region, and therefore the
eye of man can still behold them ;”! which is copied by Milton, when he speaks of
Those thick and gloomy shadows damp
As loath to leave the body that it loved. Which idea seems to him so little absurd, that it inspired him with that rapture in the well-known lines which follow :
How charming is divine philosophy!
Spotless in faith, in bosom bold,
Or harbour unrepented sin.
“ the first night I held a vigil. It was in a vast church, built by one of our heroic kings. They who sat round the blazing hearth of castles had different thoughts from mine, when
Nought living met the eye or ear,
And beneath our feet were the bones of the dead. When each man would try to rouse his spirits, and whisper to himself, Be not dismayed
Because the dead are by :
O’erspent, and we shall be as they. Within these solemn walls no murmur of busy men, no light laugh of pleasure, no sound of human existence, met the ear; but, while
Full many a scutcheon and banner riven
Swell’d with the voices of the dead; you would try to think like Sir Folker in the Nibelungen lay,