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rate of the recovery.* A hair of their heads could cure a wen. They could disperse an abscess on the arm (without recourse to surgery,) though large as a man's two hands, and though it should have been occasioned by bleeding when the moon was four days' old, which (it seems) was an act of incredible folly. Nor was this all; they could unfold the secrets of the grave with the utmost minuteness One could tell of his encounter with the soul of a sinner in the other world, which was flung at him red-hot and burnt his shoulder and cheek, though when relating his adventure, even if it were in the depth of winter, and however light might be his dress, the saint would sweat as if it were the dog-days. Another could speak of a journey, under the safe conduct of a guardian angel to the same mysterious region; of his approach to the brink of the bottomless pit, through an atmosphere of insufferable stench and darkness; of the balls of fire which were shot upwards out of the abyss and fell into it again, scintillating with the spirits of the damned; of the sudden disappearance of his heavenly guide; of his hearing behind him in this joyless solitude the hollow shrieks of dead men's souls, as they were led to the the pit's mouth, mixed with the loud and jubilant laughter of the fiends who conducted them; of their plunge into the burning bottomless gulf; of the dolorous moanings and peals of merriment dying away as they went down into the deep together; of the legion of hideous forms which now encompassed him about threatening to seize him with their fiery pincers, but having no power over him to hurt him; of his casting around a wistful eye to see if there were any to help him; and of his discovering in the distance, as it twinkled through the darkness, the light, as it
* Bede, 389.
+ Bede, 366.
§ Bede, 213.
MATERIALS OF POETRY.
were, of a star; of its rapid approach and gradual development, till the guardian angel again stands confessed before him; the devils retire; and he is rewarded for his alarm by a translation to the harmonious sounds, the Sabean odours, the pure and placid beams of Paradise.*
Whilst, however, we gather these exploits of the early saints of our country from the pages of Bede, it is only just to the memory of that veracious and single-hearted writer to observe, that numerous as may be the lying wonders which he relates and believes on the testimony of others of his own actual knowledge he does not pretend to one. But wherefore are they touched upon at all? Simply because they are characteristic of the times whereof they are told: they supply a gauge by which we can measure the degree and the progress of those corruptions from which the Reformation finally delivered us. Monstrous as these legends are, they were the faith of the nation; for if Bede receives them as facts, were his countrymen in general, so much less enlightened than himself, likely to reject them as fictions? Moreover, they are curious as specimens of a vast magazine of materials, which supplied poetry when it revived after the barbarous ages with much of its wild as well as ludicrous imagery. Dante worked them up into his Divina Comedia. His Inferno, especially, is the offspring of an imagination that had dieted with these monkish mysteries; and it may be observed by the way, that even our own Paradise Lost may have felt their influence, and that Milton may be indirectly indebted for many of the dark and terrible features of this hell to early hagiography. Romance, if it did not owe its existence, owed much of its furniture to the same common stock. The poets of romance drew from it, either directly or through the chroniclers, the adventures that suited them.
*Bede, p. 441. et seq. Comp. Dante Purgator. ii.
Turpin, a fictitious archbishop, is constantly introduced by them with solemn sneers, as a voucher for the most extravagant feats of their favourites, and thus the dishonest fictions of the priesthood were made eventually to recoil upon their own order, and swell the cry for reformation; for these popular writers, without, perhaps, intending it, or caring much about the matter, did, undoubtedly, lend a helping hand to the great cause by laughing at much that was fairly ridiculous in the doctors and doctrines of their day; happy had they known where to stop, and not to rush upon things truly sacred with the temerity of fools.
But one conservative principle there was in the economy of the Anglo-Saxon church that opposed itself to still further corruption of the faith of Christ, and that was, the free use of the word of God. The Scriptures might not, indeed, be very generally read; Bede complains that they were not; but there was no hinderance thrown in the way of reading them, quite the contrary: he himself gave a translation of the Gospel of St. John; one of the Psalter had appeared already; and in the interval that elapsed before the Norman conquest, other portions of Holy Writ were put forth from time to time in the same vernacular language. Virtue, no doubt, went out of these, narrow as might be the limits within which they circulated; and it is no unusual matter to find in the pages of Bede, and in the midst of the legends, relics, visions, and superstitions, of which they are full, occasional glimpses of better things, and some of the cardinal doctrines of Christianity still struggling vigorously for their lives.*
* See pp. 206, 329.
DIVISIONS AMONGST ECCLESIASTICS.-THE REGULAR AND SECULAR CLERGY.-THE POPE FAVOURS THE FORMER.-EXEMPTIONS FROM EPISCOPAL JURISDICTION.-HABITS OF THE FRIARS.
IN tracing the progress of corruption in the English church and the causes of it, we have hitherto had a trustworthy guide in the venerable Bede; henceforward, to the time of the Normans, there is much in our history that is dark, intricate, and uncertain.* Many early church-records have perished in the fires which on different occasions have consumed our cathedrals;-such was the fate of the documents in the cathedral of Canterbury (of all others the most to be desired), which were burnt together with that primitive structure soon after the Norman conquest.† A similar loss, and probably one much greater in extent, was sustained through the great fire of London, when St. Paul's, with its chapter house and the writings contained in it, fell a prey to the flames; not to speak of the wholesale destruction or dispersion of books and papers which accompanied the suppression of the religious houses, and which left to the fell swoop of the puritans but little to do in order to extinguish much of the ancient ecclesiastical annals of England.
However, it was undoubtedly during the interval in question, that a schism arose in the church, which eventually
* Canonicus Lichfeld, de Success. Archiep. Cant. ap. Wharton, Anglia Sacra, i. 95.
+ Osbern. ap. Wharton, Angl. Sacr. ii. 89.
Burnet's Hist, Reform. v. i. 130. v. iii. introd. xvi. fol.
hastened the crisis of the Reformation beyond any one thing else, by dividing the house against itself. The famous Dunstan, who was born in the year 925, was the man to sow the Dragon's tooth. As yet the different orders of ecclesiastics had lived in harmony. There were secular clergy, and there were regulars; but the latter had not hitherto taken kindly root in England. The great number of churches existing in this kingdom in the middle ages* (of which many traces yet remain in a name, where both the building itself and all tradition of it have passed away,) bespeaks the popularity of the secular clergy, for it is not probable that these churches were then served from the monasteries; and, moreover, the lodgement which the seculars effected in the religious houses, as the latter were from time to time evacuated of their inmates by the exterminating sword of the Danes, was the effect as well as the cause of their increasing influence. Accordingly Dunstan found many, if not all, of the monasteries, as well as the cathedrals, in the hands of the canons secular, who resided with their families, performing the daily service, and standing upon much the same footing as such persons now do in our collegiate churches. The saint, however, was not satisfied with the state of disorganization and decay to which the monastic order was reduced-he determined upon its reformation. The Benedictine rule, now become popular throughout Europe, was chosen for his experiment, and the
In "The Supplication of Beggars," they are stated at 52,000. (See Fox's Acts and Mon. ii. 280. edit. 1631-2, with the note.) The number may be exaggerated; but it will seem less extraordinary when it is remembered that one of the qualifications of a thegn or thane, a lower class of nobles, having some analogy to the barons of Norman times, was, that he should have five hides of his own land and a church. (See Turner's Angl. Sax. ii. 265.)
† Angl. Saer. ii. 91.