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   Chapter 1 A PRELIMINARY VIEW.

Anglo-Saxon Literature By John Earle Characters: 41528

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Anglo-Saxon literature is the oldest of the vernacular literatures of modern Europe; and it is a consequence of this that its relations with Latin literature have been the closest. All the vernacular literatures have been influenced by the Latin, but of Anglo-Saxon literature alone can it be said that it has been subjected to no other influence. This literature was nursed by, and gradually rose out of, Latin culture; and this is true not only of those portions which were translated or otherwise borrowed from the Latin, but also in some degree even of the native elements of poetry and laws. These were not, indeed, derived from Latin sources, but it was through Latin culture that those habits and facilities were acquired which made their literary production possible.

In the Anglo-Saxon period there was no other influential literature in the West except the Latin. Greek literature had long ago retired to the East. The traces of Greek upon Anglo-Saxon literature are rare and superficial. Practically the one external influence with which we shall have to reckon is that of Latin literature, and as the points of contact with this literature are numerous, it will be convenient to say something of the Latin literature in a preliminary sketch.

The Latin literature with which we are best acquainted was the result of study and imitation of Greek literature. But the old vernacular Latin was a homely and simple speech, much more like any modern language in its ways and movements than would be supposed by those who only know classical Latin. The old Latin poetry was rhythmical, and fond of alliteration. Such was the native song of the Italian Camen?, unlike the ?sthetic poetry of the classical age, with its metres borrowed from the Greek Muses. The old Latin poetry was like the Saxon, in so far as it was rhythmical and not metrical; but unlike it in this, that the Latin alliteration was only a vague pleasure of recurrent sound, and it had not become a structural agency like the alliteration of Saxon poetry. The book through which juvenile students usually get some taste of old Latin is Terence, in whose plays, though they are from Greek originals, something is heard of that rippling movement which has lived through the ages and still survives in Italian conversation. Reaching backwards from Terence we come to Plautus and Ennius, and then to N?vius (B.C. 274-202), who composed an epic on the first Punic war. He lamented even in his time the Grecising of his mother-tongue. He wrote an epitaph upon himself, to say that if immortals could weep for mortals, the Camen? might well weep for N?vius, the last representative of the Latin language.

The splendour of classical Latin was short-lived. The time of its highest elevation is called the Golden Age, of which the early period is marked by the names of Cicero and C?sar; the latter (the Augustan period) by the names of Virgil and Horace. There is a fine forward movement in Cicero, who studied the best Greek models; but gradually there came in a taste for curious felicity suggested by the secondary Greek literature. This adorned the poetry of Virgil; but when it began to spread to the prose, though the ?sthetic effect might be beautiful in a masterpiece, it was apt to be embarrassing in weaker hands. ?sthetic prose appears in its most intense and most perfect form in Tacitus, the great historian of the Silver Age. As new tastes and fashions grew, the oldest and purest models were neglected, and, however strange it may sound, Cicero and C?sar were antiquated long before the end of the first century.

The extreme limit of the classical period of Latin literature is the middle of the second century. The life was gone out of it before that time, but it had still a zealous representative in Fronto, the worthy and honoured preceptor of Marcus Aurelius. After this last of the Good Emperors had passed away, the reign of barbarism began to manifest itself in art and literature. The accession of Commodus was a tremendous lapse.

The point here to be observed is that the classical Latin literature was not a natural growth, but rather the product of an artificial culture. It presents the most signal example of the great results that may spring from the enthusiastic cultivation of a foreign and superior literature. And it is of the greatest value to us as an example, because it will enable us better to understand the growth and development of Anglo-Saxon literature. For just as Latin classical literature was stimulated by the Greek, so also was Anglo-Saxon literature assisted by the influence of the Latin. And as the classical student seeks to distinguish that which is native from that which is foreign in Latin authors, so also is the same distinction of essential importance in the study of Anglo-Saxon literature.

The influence of Greek upon Latin literature was so far like that of Latin upon Anglo-Saxon, that it was single and unmixed. But then the influence of Greek upon Latin was altogether an external and invading influence, like the influence of Latin on modern English; whereas in the case of Anglo Saxon the literary faculty was first acquired through Latin culture; the Saxons were exercised in Latin literature before they discovered the value of their own; they obtained the habits and instruments of literature through the education that Latin gave them.

Up to the end of the classical period the Latin had not yet attained, in literature, the position of a universal language. It was rather the scholastic language of the Roman aristocracy. There was but one field in which it occupied the whole area of the Roman world, and that was the field of law. To this we should add the Latin poetry, which was also absolute in its own domain. In every other subject Latin was a second and a subject literary language, the supreme language of literature being Greek. Greek was the chief literary language even of the Roman Empire. Of the two languages, Greek was by far the more convenient for general use. Human thought is naturally serial, and the language that is to be an acceptable medium of general literature must, above all things, possess the art of moving forward. In this art the Greek was far in advance of the Latin, and the curious culture which produced the Latin classics had, indeed, been productive of much artistic beauty, but had withal entangled the movement. It is not in Latin but in Greek books that the knowledge of the ancient world has been preserved. The greatest works in botany, medicine, geography, astronomy were written not in Latin but in Greek, even in the most flourishing times of the Roman power. It is sufficient to mention such names as Dioscorides, Galen, Strabo, Ptolemy. The greatest works in history, biography, travel, antiquities, ethics, philosophy were also written in Greek. Such names as Polybius, Plutarch, Josephus, Pausanias, Dionysius, Epictetus, Lucian will give the reader means of proof. Fronto could not prevail with a Roman emperor, his old pupil, to prefer Latin to Greek. Marcus Aurelius wrote his "Meditations" in Greek. The language of the infant Church, even in Italy and the West, was not Latin, but Greek. The names of the first bishops of Rome are Greek names, the Christian Scriptures are in Greek, and so is the oldest extant Liturgy-the Clementine-which seems to represent the practice of the West no less than of the East. Not only the Canonical Scriptures of the New Testament are in Greek, but also those which were partially or for a time received, as the Epistle of Clement, the Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas. And a further set of writings beyond these and inferior to these, but ultimately of great popularity, were in Greek: I mean the legendary and romantic apocryphal writings, such as the Acts of Peter and Paul, the Acts of Pilate, and many others.1 This latter set was already growing in the second century, and reached their mature form in the time of Gregory the Great.

It is not clear how early Latin began to be used as the official language of the Church, but everything points to an important change soon after the middle of the second century. Before that time, Justin, living at Rome, and writing (A.D. 138), for the Roman people to read, a defence of Christianity, which was addressed to the emperor Antoninus Pius, wrote it in Greek; but before long another apologetic writer, Minucius Felix, wrote in Latin. This coincides with other indications to mark a great transition in the latter half of the second century. Up to this time two languages were in literary currency, a foreign scholastic language and an ?sthetic vernacular. It was chiefly the wealthy class that sustained these literary languages in Rome. When in A.D. 166 the Oriental plague was brought to Italy with the army returning from Parthia, cultivated society was wrecked, and the literary movement was greatly interrupted in both languages. This was a blow to the artificial culture of Greek in Italy, just as the plague of 1349 and following years was a blow to the artificial culture of French in England. After A.D. 166 a check was given to progress, which lasted, in the secular domain, until the sixteenth century.

Let us spend a moment upon the sequel of the old literature, before we come to the new, which is our proper subject here.

Under the altered times that now ensued, the continuity of classicism is seen in two forms of literature-namely, philological criticism and poetry. The acknowledged model of Latin poetry was Virgil, and his greatest imitator was Claudian, who had made himself a Latin scholar by study, much as the moderns do. Claudian is commonly called the last of the heathen poets. He has also been called the transitional link between ancient and modern, between heathen and Christian poetry.2 One characteristic may be mentioned, namely, his personification of moral or personal qualities, a sort of allegory destined to flourish for many centuries, of which the first mature example appears in the "Soul's Fight" of Prudentius, the Christian poet, who was a contemporary of Claudian. The school study of the classics produced grammars, and two authors became chiefly celebrated in this branch, namely, Donatus and Priscian. Their books were standards through the Dark and Middle Ages.3

There was one department of prose literature in which Latin was undisturbed and unsophisticated. This was the department of law and administration. The legal diction escaped, in a great measure, from the influence of classicism; it kept on its even way through the whole period, and as it was an ordinary school subject under the empire, the language of the law books exercised great influence in the formation of the prose style that continued through the Middle Ages.

We now come to the new Latin literature with which we are intimately concerned.

By the side of this diminished stream of the elder literature there rose, after the middle of the second century, a new series of writings, new in subject, and new also in manner, diction, and spirit. The phraseology is less literary, and more taken from the colloquial speech and the usage of everyday life. It seems also to be, in some measure, the return-language of a colony: some of the earliest and most important contributions come from Africa, where Latin was now the mother-tongue of a large population, and that country appears to have escaped the ravages of the plague.

The first of these books is one that still bears considerable traces of classicism. It is entitled "Octavius," and is an apology for Christianity by Minucius Felix. But immediately after him we come upon a chief representative of this new literature, which aimed less at form than at the conveying of the author's meaning in the readiest and most familiar words. This is strikingly the case with the direct and unstudied Latinity of the first of the Latin fathers, the African Tertullian, in whom the contrast with classicism is most pronounced. In him the old conventional dignity gives place to the free display of personal characteristics, and no writer (it has been said) affords a better illustration of the saying of Buffon-"the style is the man."

Another African writer was Lactantius, to whom has been attributed that poem of the Ph?nix, which most likely served as pattern to the Anglo-Saxon poet.4 It consists of 170 lines, hexameters and pentameters; terse, poetical, classical. This old Oriental fable, as told by Ovid, was short and simple: "There is a bird that restores and reproduces itself; the Assyrians call it Ph?nix. It feeds on no common food, but on the choicest of gums and spices; and after a life of secular length, it builds in a high tree with cassia, spikenard, cinnamon, and myrrh, and on this nest it expires in sweetest odours. A young Ph?nix rises and grows, and when strong enough it takes up the nest with its deposit and bears it to the City of the Sun, and lays it down there in front of the sacred portals." Such is the story in Ovid; and there we know we have a heathen fable. But in the poem of Lactantius, it is so curiously, and, as it were, significantly elaborated, that we hardly know whether we are reading a Christian allegory or no. Allegory has always been a favourite form with Christian writers, and more than one cause may be assigned for it. Already there was, in the taste of the age when the Christian literature arose, a tendency to symbolism, which is seen outside the pale of Christianity. Moreover, the long time in which the profession of Christianity was dangerous, favoured the growth of symbolism as a covert means of mutual intelligence. Then Christian thought had in its own nature something which invited allegory, partly by its own hidden sympathies with Nature, and partly by its very immensity, for which all direct speech was felt to be inadequate. But what doubtless supplied this taste with continual nutriment was that all-pervading and unspeakable sweetness of Christ's teaching by parables. The Ph?nix was used upon Roman coins to express the aspiration for renewed vitality in the empire; it was used by early Christian writers5 as an emblem of the Resurrection; and in the Anglo-Saxon poem the allegory is avowed.

To Lactantius also has been ascribed another book in which we are interested. This is a collection of a hundred Latin riddles under the obscure name of Symposius, which name has by some editors been set aside in favour of Lactantius for no better reason than because of some supposed Africanisms. Aldhelm speaks of these riddles under the name of Symposius.

A new literature thus rose up by the side of that which was decaying, or had already decayed. This new literature was the fruit of Christianity; it was more a literature of the masses than any that had been hitherto known; it was marked by a strong tinge of the vernacular, and it was separated in form as well as in matter from the old classical standards. The spirit of this new literature was characterised by a larger and more comprehensive humanity. It was animated by those principles of fellow-feeling, compassion, and hopefulness, which were to prepare the way for the structure of human society upon new foundations. This, rather than the classical, is the Latin literature which we have to follow; this is the preparation for modern literature, and its course will be found to land us in the Saxon period.

After the triumph of Christianity, this new literature was much enlarged, and it appropriated to itself something of the grace and elegance of the earlier classics; and whether we speak of its contents, or of its artistic character, we may say it culminated at the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth century in the writings of Augustine. In his time we find that the contrast between profane and sacred literature is already long established: the old literature is called by the pagans liberal, but by the Christians secular.

The removal of the seat of empire to Constantinople had ultimately the effect of substituting Greek for Latin as the language of administration in the East. On the other hand, the growth of the papal power in the West favoured the establishment of Latin as the sole language of the West, to the neglect of Greek. Thus East and West were then divided in language, and Latin became universal in the West. In Anglo-Saxon, the people of the Eastern Empire are characterised simply as the Greeks (Crecas).

The heart of the new Latin literature was in the Scripture translations. Many exercised themselves in translating, especially the New Testament. Augustine says the translations were beyond number. But the central and best known of these many versions is thought to have been made in Africa. In A.D. 382, Damasus, the bishop of Rome, induced Jerome to undertake that work of revision which produced the Latin Bible, which is the only one now generally known, and which is called the Vulgata, that is to say, the received version. Older italic versions, so far as they are extant, are now to us among the most interesting of Christian antiquities. In the early centuries, and throughout the whole Middle Age, the Scriptures took rank above all literature, and their influence is everywhere felt.

The sack of Rome (A.D. 410) drew forth from the pagans a fresh outcry against Christianity. They sought to trace the misery of the times to the vengeance of the neglected gods. This accusation evoked from St. Augustine the greatest of all the apologetic treatises, namely, his "City of God" (De Civitate Dei). This great work exhibits the writer's mature and final opinions, and it may be said to represent the maturity and culmination of that Latin literature which began after A.D. 166, and continued to progress until it was half quenched in barbarian darkness. The "City of God" has been called the first attempt at a philosophy of history; and, again, it has been called the Cyclop?dia of the fifth century. It lays out before us a platform of instruction on things divine and human, which reigned as a standard for centuries, even until the theology and philosophy of the school-men had been summed up by Thomas Aquinas.

To this great work a companion book was written by Orosius, who had been Augustine's disciple. This was a compendium of Universal History, and it was designed to exhibit the troubles that had afflicted mankind in the ages of heathenism. It became the established manual of history, and continued to be so throughout our period; and Orosius was for ages the only authority for the general course of history. This explains how it came to be one of the small list of Latin books translated by Alfred.

We have no sooner reached the culmination of that Christian literature which began after the depression of A.D. 166, than we find ourselves in the presence of another great fall. The sack of Rome in 410 shook the minds of men as if it were the end of all things. The fifth century was a time of ruin, but also it was a time of new beginnings. Three great events are to be noted in this fifth century: 1. The Western Empire came to an end; 2. The Franks passed over the Rhine into Gaul, and became Christian; 3. The Saxons passed over the sea to Britain, and remained heathen until the close of the sixth century. These three events group together by a natural connection; it was the expiring empire that made room for the Frankish and Saxon conquests, and these two conquests have been, and are, fertile in comparisons and contrasts, and reciprocal action, not only through our period, but till now and onward.

About A.D. 500, Avitus, bishop of Vienne, wrote a Latin poem on the mighty acts of Sacred History-(De Spiritalis Histori? Gestis); and this book has been regarded as the original source of some passages in C?dmon and Milton.6 The poem is in five books, of which the first three-1. On the Creation; 2. The Disobedience; 3. The Sentence of God-form a whole in themselves; while the remaining two books, which are nominally on the Flood and the Red Sea, are really on Baptism and the Spiritual Restoration of Man. So that the whole work comprises a Paradise Lost and a Paradise Regained.

We now come to a book which, though not by a Christian author, is so manifestly influenced by Christianity, and has been so fully recognised by the Christian public, that it must be included in our list-viz., "The Comfort of Philosophy," by Boethius. Gibbon even called it a golden volume, and one which, if we consider the barbarism of the times and the situation of the author, must be reckoned of almost incomparable merit. It was composed in the prison to which Theodoric had consigned the wisest of the old Roman patriciate; and it is commonl

y regarded as closing the canon of Roman literature. It was translated into all the vernaculars, Alfred's translation into English being the first, and Notker's into High German being the second.7 Other works of Boethius lived through the Dark and Middle Ages, especially his translations of Aristotle, which were standards for the student in philosophy.

From this time we see a world fallen back into a wild and savage infancy, and we shall witness the gradual operation of a spiritual power reclaiming, educating, transforming it. The subject of Anglo-Saxon literature derives, perhaps, its greatest interest from the fact that it represents one great stage of this process.

As we approach the Saxon period we must take particular notice of a new agency that now comes on the scene. The institution of monachism was one of considerable standing before the date at which we are now arrived, but it had never yet found any function of systematic usefulness. Benedict of Nursia is called the father of monks, not because he first instituted them, but because he organised and regulated the monastic life and converted it to a powerful agency for religion and civilisation. Benedict was born in 480, and he died at Monte Cassino in 543. The Benedictine institution is the great historical fact which demands our attention in the early part of the sixth century.

An eminent Benedictine was the Roman Pontiff Gregory, surnamed the Great. He was born in 540, and died in 604. He designed the conversion of the Saxons. He was a great author, though he was ignorant of Greek. We will here notice three of his works-the "Commentary on Job," the "Pastoral Care," and the "Dialogues."

The first of these is remarkable as a specimen of that mystical interpretation of Scripture which characterised the exegesis of the Middle Ages, and of which manifold examples occur in the Homilies of ?lfric, who names Gregory as one of his sources.

The "Pastoral Care" is worthy of its name as a book of direction and advice from the chief pastor to his subordinates. It is full of grave practical wisdom, animated by the Christian spirit and the love of souls. For prudence it is worthy of the pontiff who solved Augustine's questions, as we read in Beda's history. In this book we discover the true and legitimate source of the power of the clergy, and we verify the words of Joseph Butler, who said that if conscience had power as it has authority, it would govern the world. The power of the clergy is sometimes explained as a stratagem; he who reads this book will see a deeper root to that power; he will see that if trickery made that power to fall, it was something else that caused it to rise.

A greater contrast than that between the "Pastoral Care" and the "Dialogues" it is hardly possible to conceive. We cannot wonder that the identity of authorship has been questioned, and that the "Dialogues" have been attributed to another Gregory. The difficulty is, however, lessened if we consider the widely different conditions of the readers addressed. At a time when an old civilisation and a crude barbarism were intermingled and living side by side, the one was written for the highest, the other for the lowest in the intellectual scale. The "Pastoral Care" was addressed to the Roman clergy, with whom, if anywhere, something of the old culture still lingered. The "Dialogues" were intended for the barbarians. The book is addressed to Theodolinda, the Lombard queen. It is a book full of wonderful, not to say puerile, stories, in which a religious lesson or moral is always conveyed, but not always one that carries conviction to the mind of the modern Christian. It reflects the policy of converting the barbarians by condescending to their tastes, and belongs to the same system as that increase of pomp and ceremony which was due to the same motive. This book far outran the former in popularity. It was among the earliest of Latin books to be translated into vernacular languages. Gregory's writings were very influential on popular religious literature throughout the Dark Ages, and nowhere more so than in England, where he was honoured as a national apostle. There exists an Anglo-Saxon translation of the "Dialogues," but it has not yet been edited.

The time of Gregory the Great was the time in which, to use Dean Milman's words, "the human mind was finally Christianised." This triumph, as usually happens, was overdriven. We see a too jealous exclusion of secular literature, and a too credulous and favourable disposition towards Christian legends. This was the time when the secondary apocryphal literature reached its maturity, and was grouped in collections. An active labourer in this pious work was Gregory of Tours. He contributed the "Miracles of St. Andrew," and possibly other pieces. This period, from the middle of the sixth into the early part of the seventh century, is the period of the greatest literary activity of the monasteries of Gaul, and the apocryphal collections seem to have been made in some of these8 If the Christianised Latin literature reached its highest excellence in the time of Augustine, it discovered its extremest tendency in the time of the two Gregories.

There is yet one form of literature that claims our attention. The Greek romances of love and marvellous adventure were probably discountenanced in Christian families, and we may regard the secondary Apocrypha as a kind of pious substitute for such entertaining works of fiction. But there was one of these old heathen novels that held its ground, that can be traced in more than one early monastic library, and that was translated into every vernacular-Anglo-Saxon first. This was the Romance of Apollonius of Tyre, from which comes the story of that Shakespearean play, "Pericles, Prince of Tyre."

The books which we have noticed between the second and the seventh centuries may be allowed to represent that Christianised Latin literature which is the historical bridge between the ancient classical and the modern vernacular literatures. The latter had as yet no existence. In M?sia, on the shores of the Danube, a Gothic dialect had been immortalised by Scripture translations from the Greek as early as the fourth century; but nothing of the kind had as yet appeared under the Latin influence in the West. The Merovingian Franks left no vernacular literature; on the contrary, they rapidly lost their native speech, and adopted that of the conquered nation.

The Franks and the Saxons had been neighbours in their native homes, speaking almost the same mother-tongue; but their migrations led them into new regions in which they again proved neighbours under altered conditions. Each was to take a leading part in the formation of modern Europe, but they were to be divided in that office, their lots being severally cast with the two great constituent factors of modern civilisation. The one was to lead the Romanesque, the other the Gothic division. The Franks became assimilated to the Romanised Gauls, and formed, with them, one Latin-speaking Church; they raised the standard of orthodoxy against the Arianism of the other barbarian powers, and the Frankish king was decorated with the title of Most Christian; the history of that Church was written in Latin by Gregory of Tours. This work, upon which he was engaged from A.D. 576 to 592, bears strong marks of literary degeneracy. Gregory complained of the low state of education in the cities of Gaul. He became a historian only from a sense of necessity, and for fear lest the memory of important events should perish. He has been called the Herodotus of the Franks, and the Herodotus of barbarism. The history of the Church in Gaul after the absorption of the Franks is not one of quickened progress but of crime and torpidity. Gregory the Great justified his mission to the Saxons on the express ground that the Church of Gaul, whose natural duty it was, had neglected it. The history of the Merovingian Franks stands in disadvantageous contrast with the early vigour of the Saxon Churches. The first great elevation of European culture was to spring, not from among the Franks, but in the remoter colonies of the Saxons.

The English conversion began A.D. 597; and two religious foundations were quickly established:-1. The Minster of St. Saviour, afterwards called Christ Church, and now Canterbury Cathedral; 2. The Abbey of SS. Peter and Paul, outside the walls of Canterbury on the east, which was afterwards called St. Augustine's. Of the foundation of schools nothing is heard at this time; but a generation later, A.D. 631, we find the Kentish schools taken as a model for schools to be founded in East Anglia by Felix.9 It is an interesting question whether these were the missionary schools, or whether they were schools which kept up the traditions of Roman education in a degenerate form like the schools in Gaul. On the ground that our oldest document is a Code of the first converted king, it has been too easily inferred, that before this time the Saxons were wholly destitute of literary appliances. Were the fact more certain, than it is, the conclusion would be weak. There are in the Chronicles certain archaic annals which have been thought to be a possible product of the heathen period.

The second home of culture was in Northumbria. A wonderful combination of influences met on this favoured soil. In the extreme province of the empire, there had been a concentration of military force, to keep the Picts in check; the centre of Roman government on the island had been at York, and here, if anywhere, something of the civilisation of Rome would naturally remain.

Another important influence was the Irish, or, as it was then called, the Scotian. It is true that the first evangelist in order of time was Paulinus, who came from Kent, and represented the Roman mission. But the savour of the Gospel was first received through the teaching of the Irish missionaries, of whom the foremost name is Aidan. Never did any people embrace Christianity with such entire heart as the Irish; and much of their lofty devotion was communicated to the Angles whom they converted.

Upon this, when they were prepared to profit by it, supervened the mission of Theodore and Hadrian, who implanted the seed of learning, with great ability, at an opportune moment, and with the most abundant results. Under the warmth of a first love, all these advantages were moulded together, and resulted in making Northumbria for three or four generations the centre of European culture. The seat of this culture was York, the old Roman capital, and its culmination was under Archbishop Egbert (734-766), and his successor Albert. The great writings of this period are in Latin, and the chief names are Aldhelm, Eddi, Winfrid (Bonifacius), Danihel, Beda, Alcuin. Of vernacular prose the chief remnant is a series of Northern Annals, between A.D. 737 and 806, which have been embodied in some of the Southern Chronicles. But what specially characterised this period was a rich development of sacred poetry, some remnants of which are perhaps extant in our "C?dmon." But our fullest knowledge of this old poetic strain comes back to us from Old Saxony, where it was propagated by the Anglian missionaries, and it survives under a thin disguise in the poem called the "Heliand."

In Aldhelm we see that this new learning was not solely ecclesiastical, but that there was something in it which aimed at recovery of classical learning. He was distinguished for his elaborate study of Latin metres, and his commendation of the pursuit. He wrote poems in Latin hexameters, and among these a Collection of Enigmas, which bore fruit in the later Anglo-Saxon literature.

The latter part of the Anglian period produced Alcuin, the distinguished scholar who was engaged by Charles the Great to organise his new schools. So we see the lamp of culture pass from Anglia into Frankland, shortly before the time when Anglia was overrun by the Danes and almost all the monuments which were destructible perished.

We may dismiss the Anglian period with the remark, that its achievements are all the more distinguished from the fact that they belong to a time when the whole Continent was in the thickest darkness, that is to say, the seventh and eighth centuries.

Under Charlemagne a new start was made for the restitution of literature. He drew learned men to his court, Alcuin from England, Paulus Diaconus from Italy. Thus he made a new centre for European learning, and France continued to sustain that character down to the latter end of the Middle Ages. His chief agent in this great work of enlightenment was Alcuin, who was educated at York under Egbert, who had been a disciple of Beda. And so we see the torch of learning handed on from Northumbria to the Frankish dominions in time to save the tradition of culture from perishing in the desolation that was near. Among the names that adorn the annals of revived learning under Charles himself, we must mention Smaragdus, because ?lfric acknowledges him as one of his sources. The book referred to would hardly be the "Diadem of Monks," a selection of pieces from the Fathers with Scripture texts, worked up as it were into a Whole Duty of Man, although ?lfric would be likely to know this book; but for the composition of his Homilies it is more likely that ?lfric would have drawn from another book by Smaragdus, namely, his commentary on the Epistles and Gospels for Sundays.

Men who have left their names in history now followed in the work of sustaining the revival of learning. We must mention Rabanus Maurus, whose Scripture commentaries were used by the poet of the "Heliand"; and Walahfrid Strabo, who wrote on plants and had a taste for Greek etymologies.

The revival of secular learning brought in its train a strong development of speculative theology. The ninth century is marked by controversy on the Eucharist, and on Predestination. The former of these controversies had an effect upon Anglo-Saxon literature, which requires us to record one or two main facts in this place. Paschasius Radbert, a monk of Corbey, who was for a short while Abbot of that famous monastery, wrote a treatise (the first of its kind) on the Eucharist, maintaining the change in the elements. The opposite side was taken by Ratramnus (otherwise called Bertram), a monk of the same house. His views were adopted by ?lfric in the tenth century, and were embodied in a Homily, which was welcomed by the English reformers of the sixteenth century as an antidote to the doctrine of transubstantiation. Haymo, bishop of Halberstadt, who had studied at Fulda, maintained the doctrine of the material change in its most extreme form. He was also a commentator upon the Scriptures, and ?lfric used his commentaries, but only "sometimes."

The Danish scourge beggared the land, as in all other respects, so in learning and in all the liberal arts. We who had formerly sent instructors to other nations, were now suitors for help in our destitution. The same national deliverer who rid us of the destroyer, was also the restorer of education. If he cannot be said to have effectually restored learning, at least he laboured with so much earnestness at the task that he may be said to have bespoken an ultimate though delayed success. Alfred is not more famous for his great battles than for his great literary efforts.

The literary restoration of his time is supported by the Carlovingian schools, and in this we may see a repayment in the ninth century of that help which Charles had received from England through Alcuin in the eighth.

Different in its origin is the remarkable spring of religious and intellectual life in the tenth century. Ever since the synod of Aix-la-Chapelle in 813, the religious spirit in Gaul had manifested itself in the stricter discipline of the Benedictine monasteries, and this movement reached us in the middle of the tenth century. The Benedictines had a famous school on the Loire at a place then called Floriacum, now Fleury or St. Beno?t-sur-Loire, and some leading men in England were in active relations with this house.10 In the eclipse which the nominal seat of Christianity was under in the tenth century, the light of the Church shone in France and England. The reforms of ?eelwold and Dunstan and Odo are the transmission of this movement to our island.

This great movement has only time to take shape enough to declare itself when it is again interrupted by troublous times, invasions, and wars, and changes of dynasty, and before any length of peace is again allowed, by the decisive and final blow of the Norman Conquest, which brought with it more than a change of dynasty. It changed the whole body of the governing and influential classes, not from one stratum to another within the Saxon nation, but by the introduction of a ruling class from another nation, speaking another language, and one of a different family.

The new language thus brought in was no barbarous dialect, but the most cultivated of the Continental vernaculars. It was the other great factor of European literature. It had begun to be cultivated later than the Saxon, but then it had ages of culture at its back. The strength of this language was in its poetry-just the element which had stagnated in England. The French taught not only the English but all Europe in poetry. All modern European poetry is after the French model.

After the Conquest Saxon literature had a stronghold in the great religious houses, and here it continued to be cultivated until far into the twelfth century. This was due not only to the patriotic sentiment, but also to the interests of their several foundations. The chief Anglo-Saxon works that we have from the times after the Conquest are concerned directly or indirectly with the property or privilege of the religious house from which the books emanate. This is the time that produced the Worcester chartulary, the Rochester chartulary, the Peterborough chronicle which embodies the privileges of the house, and the Winton chartulary. This diplomatic interest was strong and permanent enough to cause Anglo-Saxon studies to be pursued until late in the Middle Age, perhaps even down to the time of the Dissolution by Henry VIII.

But passing from this, which is an artificial continuation of the old literature, we may observe that it had a continuation which was perfectly natural and spontaneous. Examples of this are the late semi-Saxon Homilies, in which we see the gradual decay of the old flectional grammar: but the most signal examples are the two great poetical works of Layamon and Orm. These are full of French influence, though not in the same manner. Layamon's "Brut" is translated (though not without original episodes) from the French of Robert Wace: and the "Ormulum," though drawn as to its matter from Latin comments on the Gospels, yet is in form deeply imbued with the character of French poetry. Indeed, the English language became more and more a vehicle for the reproduction of French literature. This continued to the middle of the fourteenth century, when the plague, which altered so many things, altered also this. The supremacy of the French language was broken, the native language was again heard in legal pleadings, and the poetry of Chaucer laid the permanent foundation of modern English literature.

1 A translation of these writings is given in Clark's "Ante-Nicene Library," vol. xvi. Among the "Acts of Pilate" are contained the so called "Gospel of Nicodemus," which is the fountain of that favourite medi?val subject, "The Harrowing of Hell."

2 North Pinder, "Less Known Latin Poets," p. 486.

3 Donatus was Jerome's teacher. His name grew into a proverb, insomuch that an elementary treatise of any sort might in the fourteenth century be called a "donat." Priscian was a contemporary of Boethius. His grammar was epitomised by Rabanus Maurus in the ninth century.

4 Other Latin poets who touched this subject are-Ovid, "Metam.," xv., 402; Martial, "Epigrams," v., 7; Claudian's First Idyll, a poem of 110 hexameters, is entirely devoted to it.

5 Clemens Romanus; Tertullian, "De Resurrectione Carnis," c. 13. See Adolf Ebert, "Christlich-Laternische Literatur," vol. i., p. 95.

6 Siever's "Der Heliand," p. 18, and references: Guizot, "Histoire de la Civilisation en France," 18e Le?on.

7 For the Latin text, and the bibliography, there is an admirable little edition by Peiper, Lipsi?, 1871.

8 R. A. Lipsius, "Die Apokryphen Apostelgeschichten und Apostellegenden," Braunschweig, 1883, p. 170.

9 Bede's "Ecclesiastical History," iii., 18.

10 It was destroyed by the Calvinists in 1562.

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