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Rabanus Maurus. b. 786. (?) d. 856. (?)
Alcuin's view still
of the Church.
defence of the tradition.
INTRO Rabanus Maurus, his most illustrious pupil, while distinguished by his ability and learning, still held it, as Trithemius observes, the highest excellence of the scholar to render all profane literature subservient to the illustration of the Scriptures; and, up to the eleventh century, the great preponthe tradition derance of authority, including such men as Odo, abbot of Clugni, Peter Damian, and Lanfranc, is to be found ranged on the same side. Even so late as the seventeenth century, De Rancé, in his celebrated diatribe against secular learning, could point triumphantly to the fact that the rule so systematically violated by the honorable activity of the DrMaitland's Benedictines had never been formally rescinded. I grant,' says one of the ablest apologists of the culture and men of these ages, 'that they had not that extravagant and factitious admiration for the poets of antiquity, which they probably would have had if they had been brought up to read them before they could understand them, and to admire them as a necessary matter of taste, before they could form any intellectual or moral estimate of them: they thought too that there were worse things in the world than false quantities, and preferred running the risk of them to some other risks which they apprehended; but yet there are instances enough of the classics (even the poets) being taught in schools, and read by individuals; and it cannot be doubted that they might have been, and would have been, read by more, but for the prevalence of that feeling which I have described, and which, notwithstanding these exceptions, was very general. Modern and, as it is supposed, more enlightened views of education have decided that this was all wrong; but let us not set down what was at most an error of judgement, as mere stupidity and a proof of total barbarism. If the modern ecclesiastic should ever meet with a crop-eared monk of the tenth century, he may, if he pleases, laugh at him for not having read Virgil; but if he should be led to confess that, though a priest of Christ's catholic church, and nourished in the languages of Greece and Rome till they were almost as familiar to him as his own, he had never read a single page of Chrysostom or Basil, of Augustine or Jerome, of Ambrose
LETTERS AFTER THE DEATH OF CHARLEMAGNE.
or Hilary—if he should confess this, I am of opinion that INTROthe poor monk would cross himself, and make off without looking behind him'.'
Within three years after the death of Charlemagne an A.D. 817. important change was introduced in the Benedictine schools. The seculars, by the decree of a Council held at Aix-laChapelle, were no longer admitted to mingle with the oblati Distinction and the monks, but received instruction in separate classes, the Benedicand probably without the precincts of the monastery'. This distinction continued to exist down to the twelfth century, and may be regarded as favorable to learning in so far that the most learned body of the period still continued to direct the education of the secular clergy.
state of the
the death of
In the political disturbances that ensued upon the death Disturbed of the great emperor the prospects of learning became again empire after clouded, and the scholars of the time are loud in their Charlemagne. laments over the palmy days of the past, and gloomy in their prognostications of the future. The few who still essayed to impart to others something of learning and culture, found their efforts useless while a barbarous soldiery plundered the monasteries, and the country resounded with the clang of arms. Heu! misera dies quam infelicior nox sequitur! is the exclamation of Paschasius Radbertus". The deacon Paschasius Florus, in the dismal strains wherein he describes the d. 865. disasters that followed upon the division of the empire, contrasts the prospects of learning with the bright promise of the time when Charlemagne guided the fortunes of the state. 'The cultivation of letters is at an end,' writes Lupus, bishop Lupus, bishop of of Ferrières, to Altwinus, 'who is there who does not deplore Ferrières.
1 Dr Maitland, Dark Ages, pp. 177 -179.
2 Ut schola in monasterio non habeatur nisi eorum qui oblati sunt.' Baluze, Cap. Regum, 1 585. Oblati monasteriorum, qui se ac sua, vel majorem partem bonorum suorum sine fraude ac dolo monasteriis ipsis sponte ac libere obtulerunt.' Ducange, s. v. Francis Monnier in his interesting Histoire des Luttes Politiques et Religieuses dans les Temps Carolingiens, p. 38, refers back to
these Councils the formal distinction
3 The school at Tours appears to
4 Vita Wala, Migne, Vol. cxIX.
the unskilfulness of the teachers, the paucity of books, the want of leisure'?' In a letter to Eginhard, he complains that those who cultivate learning are regarded as useless drones, and seem raised to unenviable eminence, only to be marked out for the dislike of the crowd, who impute all their failings, not to the common infirmity of human nature, but to their Ilis letters. literary acquirements. The letters of this prelate are, indeed, among the most interesting and valuable records of the period. We prefer them greatly to the intensely edifying correspondence of Rabanus, or even to that of Alcuin himself; and it must be owned, that the literary activity they reveal is in singular contrast to the representations of those writers who would have us regard the period that followed on the reign of Charlemagne, as one wherein learning suffered a well nigh total eclipse. At Ferrières, at least, its lamp His literary shone with no uncertain light. In a letter to one correspondent, we find the good bishop begging for the loan of a copy of Cicero's treatise on Rhetoric, his own manuscript being faulty (mendosum), and another, which he had compared with it, still more so3. In a second letter he mentions that he intended to have forwarded a copy of Aulus Gellius, but his friend, the abbot, has detained it. Writing to another correspondent, he thanks him for the pains he has taken in correcting a copy of Macrobius; to a third he promises to send a copy of Cæsar's Commentaries, and enters into a lengthened explanation to show that a portion of that work must be regarded as written by Hirtius. In another letter we find him begging that a copy of the Institutes of Quintilian may be sent to Lantramnus to be copied under his auspices. When we consider that pursuits like these have been held to add lustre to the reputation of not a few of the most distinguished prelates of our English Church, it seems hard to withhold the meed of praise from a poor French bishop of the ninth century; unless indeed such labours are to be regarded as creditable enough when associated with
the dignity and luxury of a modern bishopric, but quite INTROanother thing when carried on amid the alarms of war and a constant struggle with poverty, and where the writer has every now and then to pause to tell of the cruelty of the soldiery, the scanty provision for his household, and the tattered apparel of his servants.
In the fierce antagonism of races amid which the Carlo- Decline of vingian empire broke up, we find little to illustrate the progress of education. The light which illumined the court of Charlemagne, and lingered round that of Charles the Bald, died out in the tenth century, or took refuge with the alien race that ruled in Andalusia. Learning still revolved round the monastery and maintained its exclusively theological associations. How little it thus prospered in England State of is sufficiently attested by the evidence of our king Aelfred, a England. monarch with strong points of resemblance to Charlemagne, who declared that he knew not a single monk south of the Thames capable of translating the Latin service.
Having now however examined, sufficiently for our present purpose, what may be termed the external history of the education of these centuries, we shall proceed to endeavour to ascertain, in turn, the real value and amount of the scanty learning thus transmitted to more hopeful times.
The fact that here at once arrests our attention is, that while education was warped and curtailed by the views of the theologian, the substance and the fashion of what was The textactually taught were to a great extent derived from pagan used down sources, and thus preserved in a very remarkable manner the traditions of Roman culture. The ordinary instruction imparted in the Middle Ages, prior to the twelfth century, was almost entirely founded on the works of five authors,Orosius, Martianus, Boethius, Cassiodorus, and Isidorus,-of these Martianus and Boethius were pagan, the others Christian writers, but all for the most part slavish compilers from greatly superior Greek and Roman treatises. Let us be distinctly understood. We do not assert that no other authors were read', but simply that these authors were the school
The late M. Amable Jourdain, whose authority on such a subject
books of those times. A far wider range of reading was undoubtedly accessible. Here and there a mind of superior energy aspired to overcome the difficulties of the Greek tongue and gained an acquaintance with some of its masterpieces, as well as with those of the Latin language. The Latin Fathers were not unfrequently studied; the Vulgate of Jerome was extensively in use; Aristotle, as a logician, survived both in Augustine and Boethius; Priscian and Donatus are oft-quoted authorities in questions of grammar; but the limits within which such studies are to be regarded as having directly influenced the individual are so narrow, as to render it especially necessary to be cautious how we regard them as forming any appreciable element in the education then imparted.
The first of the five treatises above enumerated represents the school history then in use. Orosius, the compiler, Ozanam remarks, was the first to condense the annals of the world into the formula, divina providentia agitur mundus et homo1. It was in the fifth century that Orosius wrote; a time when paganism was loudly reiterating its accusations Libri VII. against Christianity, in order to fasten upon the upholders of
the new faith the responsibility of the calamities that were then falling so thickly on the empire. Augustine's elaborate vindication was but half completed, and he called upon Orosius, who was his pupil, to prepare a briefer and less.
Orosius. fl. circ.
few will call in question, claims for
dain's Dissertation sur l'État de la Philosophie Naturelle au Douzième Siècle, p. 26. Among the most recent estimates of the learning of these ages that of M. Victor Le Clerc's is noticeable for its highly favorable character:-'Quant à la littérature latine, peu s'en fallait qu'on ne l'eût déjà telle que nous l'avons aujourd'hui. Ce mot trop légèrement employé de renaissance des lettres ne saurait s'appliquer aux lettres latines: elles n'ont point ressuscité, parce qu'elles n'étaient point mortes.' Histoire Littéraire de la France au Quatorzième Siècle, 1 355.
1 Ozanam, History of Civilization in the Fifth Century, 1 57.