ALCUIN’S RESIDENCE DURING EIGHT YEARS AT THE COURT OF CHARLEMAGNE. AD 782-790.
1.—Of the State of Civilization in the Kingdom of France.
AT the period of the conquest of Gaul by the Franks, the natives were far superior to their conquerors in intellectual cultivation. The permanent footing which the victors obtained had, however, no influence in refining their manners; and their adoption of the Christian religion contributed less to eradicate their barbarism than to increase their superstition. Instead of the new settlers acquiring a share of civilization, the natives assimilated themselves to them more than the Romans had done to other tribes of Germany, by whom they had been subdued. In times when religion forms the sole subject of mental interest, we can judge of the general state of civilization by the condition of the priests. From the moment that the Franks began to aspire to high dignities in the church, such a degeneracy of manners prevailed amongst the superior clergy, that we should scarcely credit the accounts of the ignorance and scandalous practices of many ecclesiastics, were they not recorded by Gregory himself. Intemperance in drinking, perjury, debauchery, adultery, and the most abominable cruelties were as common among the bishops as among the rest of the Franks.
The contagion of their evil example spread among the inferior clergy; and had not some resisted the general depravity, and distinguished themselves by lives strict in proportion to the profligacy of the rest, or had not ignorance and barbarism of the times been so great that the most absurd superstitions found a ready acceptance, it would be difficult for us to conceive how a religion could continue to be held in estimation, whose ministers surpassed other men not in virtue but in vice. The lives of the clergy being subject to no inspection, they sank still lower throughout the whole Christian world during the restless and warlike times when the sceptre was transferred from the enfeebled line of the Merovingian house to the more vigorous hand of the race of Charlemagne.
A system, therefore, such as Popery developed itself in its commencement, was a positive benefit to the middle ages. In the warmth with which Popery is both attacked and defended, it is but too often overlooked, that there was a time when it was beneficial to mankind, as well as a time when it degenerated through the abuse of its power, and ripened for the destruction connected with the accomplishment of its objects. Every human expedient is the result only of peculiar exigencies; and no sooner does it cease to be necessary than it loses its importance, which no means, however artfully contrived, can restore. Were the Roman hierarchy now surrounded even by an army of Jesuits, we need not dread the thunders of the Vatican. The depravity of the clergy, however, proves how necessary it was in those days to create an authority distinct from the temporal power to control their lives; and we shall see hereafter, that, in the thorough reform undertaken by Charlemagne he was induced to favour the Hierarchy from a conviction of its necessity.
Charles Martel had imposed military service on the church, as well as on the other fiefs, and left it to the choice of the ecclesiastics either to resign their temporalities, or to perform the obligations under which they held them. The greater part preferred retaining them by this disgraceful tenure, to the alternative of being deprived of their possessions. Charles Martel even rewarded many of his adherents for their services in battle, with lands and offices belonging to the church, and appointed bishops who had neither capacity for their charge, nor any conception of its dignity. Although, through the zeal of St. Boniface, some of the most unworthy were displaced in the following reign, yet these solitary instances had little effect on the whole system. To reform abuses so enormous, required all the power and vigour of a man like Charlemagne.
At the time when Einhard wrote the life of Charlemagne he was unable to meet with anyone who could furnish him with information respecting the birth, childhood, and youth of his hero; and he deemed it absurd to hand down unauthenticated reports to posterity. Surprising as is this confession, it will appear less strange when we reflect, that Einhard resided at Charles’s court only during the latter part of his reign; and that he did not enjoy that intimacy with the monarch which has been recorded by history, from the tradition of his amour with the pretended daughter of the king. Probably, at that period, he had not begun to entertain the idea of writing the life of Charles, or he could certainly have found no difficulty in collecting the necessary materials; and when afterwards, in the seclusion of a cloister, he availed himself of his leisure to prosecute the work, whose classical style exhibits the most convincing proof of the impulse given by Charles’s institutions to the national civilization; much, perhaps, had escaped his memory or seemed to him not sufficiently authentic to be incorporated into a description, which, while it paints such a character in the most glowing colours, should represent only the true features. This assertion of a contemporary must not, therefore, deter us from availing ourselves of the account given by Einhard, and other authors, to produce a sketch of the early education of Charles. He was brought up after the ordinary manner of the French nobility, being taught the use of arms, and the usual athletic exercises of hunting, riding, and swimming. Intellectual cultivation was considered of so little importance for the future sovereign of a warlike people, that he did not even learn to write; and, notwithstanding all the pains which he took in after life to supply the deficiency, he could never attain to a ready and skilful use of the pens. Neither was he in his youth instructed in the Latin language; he understood it, indeed, as it was then commonly spoken in Gaul, but not according to rule, and the usage of the ancient Latin authors. He endeavored, at a more advanced age, to remedy this defect also of his education; and, if we may believe his biographers, not without success. In conversation, where inaccuracies are less striking, he, perhaps, made himself understood with as much facility as he understood others; but the difficulty he experienced in expressing himself in writing, is evident from a letter which he wrote from his camp at Ens to his wife Fastrada, in 791. The rest of his letters, which are in a better and more easy style, were either composed by others to whom he communicated his ideas, or were examined and corrected by some learned friend, as were the French works of Frederick the Great.
Although his education was not calculated to develop his literary talents, it did not, at all events, stifle his nobler qualities; and it required only an external stimulus and excitement to kindle in him that ardent desire for knowledge, which he afterwards endeavored to satisfy amid the tumult of war, and when harassed by circumstances the most intricate, and business the most urgent. Deterred by the fearful example of others, he early learnt to shun excess and intemperance; and throughout his whole life, not only practiced moderation himself and introduced it into his family and household, but also issued salutary edicts against drunkenness, in order to eradicate that deeply rooted propensity of the Germans. His vigorous understanding, and his mind, naturally susceptible of all that was great and beautiful, found in the circumstances of his early youth ample materials for serious reflection and noble resolutions. We must remember how readily the young mind embraces all that is presented to it, and how deep and permanent is the impression of everything which really awakens the imagination, in order to be able properly to estimate the effect produced on the youthful Charles by his father’s accession to the Merovingian throne, and his own consecration and coronation by Pope Stephen the Third.
As Charles increased in years, and especially after he had ascended the throne, he felt more and more keenly the want of education, both in himself and all who surrounded him. A monarch possessing a mind less exalted than his, would, in his situation, have protected the ignorance which he so strenuously sought to banish, and would have despised in others that in which he himself had no participation; but his sentiments were far too noble to admit of his adopting such a course, and he endeavored rather to remove the causes to which this deficiency in civilization was to be attributed. His first step was to restore the court school, wherein the princes and sons of the nobility had formerly been educated, but which had been neglected during the tumult of the late tempestuous times. In consequence, however, of the deficiency of competent persons to establish any regular system, he was compelled to have recourse to foreigners. On his return from his first expedition across the Alps, in the year 774, he brought with him two learned Italians, the deacon Paul, author of the history of Lombardy, and Peter, A.M. of Pisa. He appointed Peter master of the court school, and himself received instruction from him in the Latin grammar : probably, he either died soon afterwards or was incompetent to his situation, as the establishment made no progress until the arrival of Alcuin.
3.—Alcuin as Instructor to the King and Royal Family.
Alcuin arrived in France in the year 782, for the purpose of undertaking the management of the court school, the instruction of the king, and the education of the princes and princesses. In the same year, the Saxon rebellion commenced such a series of important and complicated political events, that it seems inconceivable how Charles could snatch a moment from the cares of state to devote to literary objects. Two years of undisturbed tranquillity among the Saxons, had induced Charles to believe that he might venture to introduce French regulations among them. Accordingly, he commenced by ordering a general levy of the Saxon troops; no sooner, however, did the Saxons see themselves collected in considerable numbers, with arms in their hands, than the general feeling of hatred produced the determination of turning them, not against the enemies of the Franks, but against the Franks themselves. The cruel severity with which Charles punished this mutiny of the soldiers, united the whole body of Saxons against him. Two sanguinary engagements, the only pitched battles fought in this tedious war, distinguished the following year (783); and though the Saxons were compelled to quit the field, from the superior discipline of their opponents, they continued, in separate parties, to make such an obstinate resistance, that Charles did not venture to lay aside his arms during the whole of the summer and winter of 784-5; and it was only by dreadful and barbarous devastation of the country, and by winning over some of the principal people by flattery and condescension, that he was at length enabled to reduce the chiefs, and afterwards the people, to submission. The repose thus obtained was not of long duration. Duke Arigis of Beneventum, confiding in the distance at which his territories were placed from those of France, in the number and strength of his fortresses, and still more in his alliance with the Greeks, who were desirous of restoring to the throne of Lombardy the son of Desiderius, who had taken refuge at Constantinople, assumed an independence which obliged the king to cross the Alps. Charles knew well how to estimate and to overcome the difficulties annexed to a campaign in lower Italy. Had he determined, as usual, upon leading the army, not till after the May-meeting, across the Alps, he would have reached Beneventum in a season when the heat would have rendered all military operations impracticable, or have produced sickness among the troops; but so great was his authority, or the readiness of the Franks to serve him, that he commenced his march towards Italy in the autumn of 786. The Duke of Beneventum had, in his calculations, overlooked the power and abilities of his great opponent; and when, early in the spring of 787, Charles suddenly entered his dominions, he was so completely taken by surprise that he was glad to purchase the clemency of the victor by submission. Charles accepted his offers of subjection; but not till he had made a sufficient display of his power to ensure obedience. No sooner, however, had he recrossed the Alps for the purpose of chastising the duke of Bavaria for the part taken by him in this design against France, than Arigis, having entered into fresh negotiations with the Greeks, projected a scheme that might have proved dangerous to the Frank supremacy in Italy and Germany, had it been as skilfully executed as it was ably conceived. It was concerted that the Bavarians and Avars on the one side, and the Greeks with the Lombards on the other, should rise simultaneously; while it was expected that the Saxons would not fail to profit by this favourable moment to shake off the yoke of oppression. The decision and good fortune of Charles, however, hurled back upon the author the blow aimed at the Franks. The untimely death of the duke of Beneventum, and the wise measures adopted by Charles, frustrated the landing of the Greeks in Italy; and the second participation of Thassilo in this treasonable alliance was punished by the deposition of the duke, and the extinction of the dukedom of Bavaria. The Avars, who, according to the stipulations, invaded the French territories, encountered, in Charles, an irresistible opponent, and involved themselves in a war which led to their political annihilation. The Saxons, so far from venturing on any hostile movement, accompanied the king in a campaign which he undertook the following year, 789, against the Sclavonians, a people inhabiting the right bank of the Elbe. He looked upon this river as the natural eastern boundary of his kingdom, and endeavored to secure it, not only by erecting fortresses, but by reducing the Sclavonians on the opposite bank to subjection.
It was during these troublous times, that Alcuin first took up his abode at the court of France, and commenced his labours for the mental improvement of the king, the royal family, and the people. One cannot but admire, with Alcuin, the noble mind and extraordinary activity of Charles, and acknowledge the superiority of a man who, in the midst of so many distracting political cares and warlike operations, could occupy himself with literary pursuits, the value of which was at that time far from being generally acknowledged. It was only by scrupulously availing himself of every moment, that he could find time for these various employments. Even during his meals, he never failed to introduce either reading or instructive conversation. The political constitution of France was so organized that it allowed the king to pass the winter months in tranquillity in the bosom of his family; and if extraordinary circumstances obliged him to keep the field during that season, as he was compelled to do from the year 784 to 785, he required his family to join him. He had therefore nearly eight winter months to spend in intercourse with Alcuin, and in literary occupations. What the subjects of study were, and how they were treated of in those times, we may best learn from Alcuin’s works; and as the importance of learning to the state and church of France was first recognized by Charles, the institutions established for its propagation would naturally adopt the views which Alcuin as teacher, and Charles as learner, might entertain. In his commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes, Alcuin speaks of the division of the then known sciences. According to him, they are divided into Ethics, Physics, and Theology, and were really taught in the order in which they are here placed. This is more clearly explained in a discourse between himself and two of his pupils, to be found in the Introduction to his grammar. The students desire to be conducted to the higher branches of learning, and to behold the seven degrees of theoretic doctrine, so often promised. The teacher points out to them, Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy, or, as it was then called, Astrology: The first three (afterwards called the Trivium) formed the Ethics of Alcuin, and the four others, or the Quadrivium, the Physics: these two parts were only preparatory studies for the highest of all, Theology. The knowledge of these sciences was to form and strengthen the mind for the understanding of the true faith, and to protect it against the erroneous doctrines of heretics.
There are still extant manuals by Alcuin, especially on the various branches of ethics, which enable us to describe his mode of treating them. As far as regards the first part of the Trivium, Grammar, he adopts the form of a conversation between two students, a Saxon and a Frank, who receive from their master information on those points which they do not comprehend. Latin was not, in those days, in the same degree as at present, a dead language: it was still spoken in several parts of the Frank kingdom, and constantly used in all public transactions, and also in the church. A grammar written at that period, must necessarily be purely practical. In our schools Latin is considered the best medium of instruction for young people; because it unites in itself the double advantage of being the best means of developing the understanding in a logical manner, and of imparting at the same time the knowledge of a foreign language. None of the modern languages, which, on account of their practical utility, the philanthropist would wish to substitute for it, can supply what the Latin affords. Whoever is well grounded in Latin, may readily acquire a knowledge of all the modern tongues; less because some of them are derived from it, than because a mind which has been strengthened by the study of the Latin grammar, only requires a little practice, in order to comprehend the peculiarities of a modern language, and to use it with facility. But in Alcuin’s times, Latin was not learned so perfectly, nor with this view; and his grammar is consequently nothing more than a system of forms. (He treats of single words and their forms, without specifying how they are to be used in the construction of a sentence.) We do not find anything that is necessary to be known, omitted : still, we cannot but disapprove the inconvenient arrangement, and want of accuracy in the definitions.
The beginning of the section on prepositions, may serve as an example. To the question, “What is a preposition?” the answer is, “An indeclinable part of speech”. Here, an accidental outward form is made the principal characteristic, and is so much the less accurate, as there are many other words besides prepositions which are indeclinable. Equally defective is the reply to the second question on the use of the prepositions, “They must be placed before other parts of speech, either by being compounded with, or united to them”. A peculiarity like this can only be a sign, not a definition; and, besides, this explanation excludes all the prepositions that are placed after their cases. Alcuin’s grammar is evidently written more for the memory than the understanding. The examples are selected from the classics, most of them from Virgil; some from Terence, Juvenal, Lucan, and Cicero.
An appendix to the grammar treats of orthography. It is no small merit in Alcuin, that he recommended by his example, and facilitated by his instructions, accuracy in the transcription of books. (But for him, many of the manuscripts of the middle ages would have been still more defective than they are.) He is, therefore, entitled to the thanks of the whole of western Europe, whose high degree of cultivation and enlightenment is derived from those works of antiquity preserved by the care and diligence of the monks. In the monastery of St. Martin of Tours, of which Alcuin afterwards became abbot, a room called The Museum was specially appropriated to the transcribers. On the walls, verses were written strictly enjoining them to avoid inserting any words not warranted by the original, but founded only on their own ideas, and cautioning them against too great rapidity in writing. They were also recommended to make the proper breaks, and to be careful of the right punctuation. For this purpose, Alcuin had written a book on orthography, of which there remains only an abstract made by a monk of Saltzburg, for the use of himself and others. It contains a short list, alphabetically arranged, principally of such words as are sounded alike but spelt differently, of synonymous and irregular verbs.
The grammar acquainted the learner simply with words; the formation of sentences was taught by Logic in the most extended sense of the term, which naturally divides itself into two parts; Rhetoric, or the art of convincing others, and Dialectic, or the art of distinguishing truth from falsehood.
The subject of Rhetoric is discussed in a dialogue between Charlemagne and Alcuin; the questions of the king serving to elicit the principles of the teacher. The treatise is entirely confined to forensic eloquence; and as the rules are taken from the Romans, so also do their principles of jurisprudence form the groundwork of this composition. It would have been an invaluable treasure, had it described to us the actual proceedings in a Frank court of justice, instead of representing the litigations which the ancient rhetoricians had partly invented, and partly taken from real life and from history. In those times, when simple cases were easily decided, and the more complicated submitted to the judgment of God, such a system of rhetoric was of no practical importance; but it was calculated to give acuteness and precision to the understanding, and accustomed the student to express himself with ease and fluency. At the conclusion of the treatise is a short discourse on the virtues. Here, also, Alcuin retains the classification of the ancient philosophers, but with an adaptation to the ideas of Christianity. This appears to me sufficiently interesting to deserve a literal quotation. “I wonder”, observes the king, “that we Christians should so often depart from virtue, though we have eternal glory promised as its recompense by Jesus Christ, who is Truth itself; whilst the heathen philosophers steadily pursued it merely on account of its intrinsic worth, and for the sake of fame”.
Alcuin.—“We must rather deplore than wonder, that most of us will not be induced to embrace virtue either by the fear of punishment or the hope of promised reward”.
Charles.—“I see it, and must, alas I acknowledge, that there are many such. I beg you, however, to inform me as briefly as possible, how we, as Christians, are to understand and regard these chief virtues”.
Alcuin.—“Does not that appear to you to be wisdom, whereby God, after the manner of human understanding, is known and feared, and his future judgment believed?”
Charles.—“I understand you; and grant that nothing is more excellent than this wisdom. I also remember that it is written in Job, Behold, the wisdom of man is the fear of God. And what is the fear of God, but the worship of God, which in the Greek is called Theosophy”.
Alcuin.—“It is so : and farther, what is righteousness but the love of God, and the observance of his commandments?”
Charles.—“I perceive this also, that nothing is more perfect than this righteousness, or rather that there is no other than this”.
Alcuin.—“Do you not consider that to be valour whereby a man overcomes the Evil One, and is enabled to bear with firmness the trials of the world?”
Charles.—“Nothing appears to me more glorious than such a victory”.
Alcuin: —“Is not that temperance which checks desire, restrains avarice, and tranquillizes and governs all the passions of the soul?”
The king agrees to this also, and thus the whole dialogue concludes.
The treatise on the second part of Logic, or the third part of Ethics, is a continuation of the former; and therefore, also, in the form of a dialogue betwixt Alcuin and his royal pupil. The rules and examples given for the formation of syllogisms are quite in the style of Aristotle’s category, on which indeed the work is founded, without any of the subtleties and absurd sophistry of the later schoolmen, who were disputants by profession, and could not calculate upon a victory on which depended their reputation and their very existence, unless they possessed sharper weapons of attack, and higher entrenchments of dialectic forms for their defence than their adversaries. The examples are taken in part from the Latin authors, particularly from the works of Virgil and Cicero.
The three subjects of the Trivium had no particular reference to the daily interests of life, affecting them only in so far as they tended to the general improvement of the mind. They were useful as the handmaidens of theology, and intended for the support of the true faith; but when an impetus has once been given to thought, it is impossible to prescribe its course. The mind now aroused to philosophical research, boldly instituted an enquiry into the dogmas of the church, testing them, not by their external authority but by their internal worth. It will be seen that during the reign of Charlemagne, the pretensions of the Church, and during that of his son and successor, the administration of public affairs, underwent a rigorous investigation. It was neither the superior justice of their cause, nor the weight of their influence, that procured for the sons of Louis the Pious the victory over their father; but the talents of men like Agobard, who considered a reform in the state necessary, and who hoped to see accomplished in their own way, by the sons who were dependent on them, those schemes which the father had neither sufficient independence of mind, nor reckless firmness of character to execute. The science of Ethics, therefore, as it was then taught, was important as a means of liberating the mind from the shackles of superstition and despotism. Had it extended throughout all classes, as Charlemagne intended, it would have given a very different aspect to the character of the middle ages; but the laity being opposed to the clergy merely as a physical force, the latter had all the advantage of education on their side, and of course obtained the victory in every intellectual contest.
The four component parts of Physics were of a more practical kind, and applicable to the objects of ordinary life. Although Alcuin has not systematically developed his views in any work on the subject, still there exists a sufficient number of passages in his letters to Charles, to indicate his method, and the share which the king took in those scientific pursuits. Astronomy was the study that chiefly interested him. This science affords to the mind which has not yet arrived at a perfect consciousness of its own capabilities, an external object to which it may elevate itself, and from which it may obtain a standard whereby to pleasure its own power; for there is something sublime in the thought that the laws of nature, to which our material being must do homage, are subordinate to our intellectual faculties. The king studied it, also, with a view to the accurate admeasurement of time, and the formation of a fixed calendar so important for the .regulation of life both in church and state. He required Alcuin to calculate the lunar and solar year, and to explain, from astronomical observations, the cause of the over plus of ten hours and a half in each month, in consequence of which the year gained five days, six hours, and every fourth year an intercalary day. The completion of the nineteen years’ cycle in the year 797, having rendered the intercalation of a day necessary, in order to avoid confusion in the calendar, Alcuin proposed counting thirty-one days in the month of November. At that time, but contrary to his will, a new method of calculation, the Alexandrian reckoning, had insinuated itself into the court school; and a dispute arose as to the period when the year should commence. Those who adopted the new method insisted that the year ought to begin at the autumnal equinox, when the light of day is becoming shorter, and the darkness of night longer; whilst Alcuin maintained that the commencement of increasing light, the winter solstice, a time which also coincided with the festival of Christmas, was a more convenient period. He ridicules his opponents with much ingenuity and bitterness. “Darkness”, he says, “might be very suitable to Egyptians; but he rejoiced that he had escaped from it, with Moses, to live and to abide in the precious land of light; and that on no account would he, nor should the king either, return to Egyptian darkness”.
Charles was such an attentive observer of the heavens that nothing remarkable occurred without attracting his notice, and awakening his reflection. From the month of July, 798, till the same month in the following year, the planet Mars was nowhere visible in the heavens; wherefore, the king, who had in vain sought for it in the constellation Cancer, asked Alcuin whether its disappearance was to be attributed to its own natural course, or to the power of the sun, or to a miracle. These facts sufficiently attest the interest which Charles took in astronomy, and confirm the passing remark of Einhard, that the king devoted more time and pains to astronomy than to any other science. It seems he was desirous of constructing a German almanac; at all events, the introduction of German names of the months originated with him; some he borrowed from the Anglo-Saxon, and some he invented. He called January Winter-month; February, Horning-month; March, Spring-month; April, Easter-month; May, Pleasure-month; June, Fallow-month; July, Hay-month; August, Harvest-month; September, Meadow-month; October, Wind-month; November, Autumn-month; December, Holy-month.
Astronomy, like the other branches of physics, was, in Alcuin’s opinion, to be regarded as a science principally in its reference to theology. Its object was to afford to the doubting mind the most convincing evidence of the existence of a Creator, to awaken in the believer the highest veneration of the wisdom of the Almighty, and to strengthen his faith. Even arithmetic first derived its title to be considered a science from its adaptation to Theology. The numbers in the Holy Scriptures, for instance, could not escape the mystical interpretation which it was the fashion of those times to give, and which was held to be essential to the right faith; they were supposed to contain a hidden meaning, which Arithmetic would help to disclose. Alcuin’s method, and the acuteness with which he traces through all its windings a theory, which, however perverted it may seem, was by no means destitute of ingenuity, will be best seen in a letter of which the following is a literal translation. It is addressed to one of his pupils named Onias or Daphnis; and explains the passage in the Song of Solomon, wherein it is said, vi. 8. “There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines and virgins without number”. He writes thus :—“An accurate acquaintance with numbers, teaches us that some are even, others uneven; that of the even numbers, some are perfect, others imperfect; and further, that of the imperfect numbers, some are greater, others less. All numbers are unequal that cannot be divided into two equal parts, such as 7 or 9, which, if divided, will be found to contain unequal parts. Of the equal numbers, some are perfect, others imperfect. A perfect number is one which is formed entirely of its aliquot parts, which will divide without leaving a fractional remainder, and the sum of whose parts is neither greater nor less than the whole. Take, for example, the number 6; the half of 6 is 3, the third is 2, and the sixth 1, which parts added together make 6; thus producing no fractions by division, nor over plus by the addition of the aliquot parts. The perfect Creator, therefore, who made all things very good, created the world in six days, in order to show that everything that he had formed, was perfect in its kind. On the other hand, if we divide the number 8, we shall find that the sum of its parts is less than the whole. The half of 8 is 4, the fourth is 2, the eighth 1, which parts, when added together, produce not 8 but 7; 1 + 2 + 4 = 7 not 8. On this account, when the human race after the flood replenished the earth, they originated from the number 8; for we read that 8 persons were in Noah’s ark, from whom all mankind is descended; thus indicating that the second race is less perfect than the first, which had been created in the number 6. As Adam was formed on the sixth day out of the virgin earth, so also our Redeemer, the restorer of the primitive perfection was born of the Virgin Mary in the sixth age of the world, in order to proclaim by his coming the perfection of the number 6, which had been intimated at the creation of the first man. We see, moreover, the progression of numbers in certain regular series until they become infinite. The first progression of numbers is from 1 to 10, the second from 10 to 100, the third from 100 to 1000. The same rule of perfection or imperfection that applies to the first series from 1 to 10, applies also to the second from 10 to 100. For as the number 6 when divided by units is found to be perfect, so also will the number 60, when divided by tens, the 10 in this case taking the place of the unit. The division of 60 into its aliquot parts is as follows; the half of 60 is 30, like as 3 is the half of 6; the third is 20, as 2 is of 6; and 10 stands in the place of the unit; these parts, when added together, make 60 : — thus --- 10 + 20 + 30 = 60; as 1 + 2 + 3 = 6. The same rule cannot be applied to the division of 80; for of 80, the half is 40, the fourth 20; the eighth 10; the sum of which is not 80 but 70; for 10 -- 20 + 40 = 70.
“The sixty queens and eighty concubines are the members of the holy church. Of these, some devote themselves to teaching purely from love to Christ; others who seek worldly advantage, labour, indeed, in the church, but it is for the sake of temporal gain, not from a longing after the heavenly country, that they are willing thus to toil. The latter are compared in their imperfection to the number 80; but the former in their perfect holiness are denoted by the number 60. They are worthy the name of queens, because they, simply from love to the bridegroom and a desire to multiply the heirs of heaven, seek to perpetuate a blessed succession by means of baptism and instruction. The others, on the contrary, are designated by the name of concubines, because, although they also, through baptism and instruction, often produce worthy sons, yet, being actuated by the love of this world and the ambition of acquiring earthly honour, they themselves remain unhonored. With such, I beseech thee, my dearest son, avoid all fellowship; and if through the mercy of God thou should hereafter become worthy to be an instructor, labour unceasingly from love to him who shed his blood for thy salvation, in order that thou may obtain in recompense, not perishable riches, but everlasting glory round the throne of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and glory for ever and ever. Amen”.
All the numbers that occur in the Holy Scriptures were at that time interpreted in a similar manner; and it was only in this point of view that Alcuin would allow arithmetic to possess any scientific utility or any power to afford intellectual enjoyment. Consequently, geometry, which would admit of no such application, held a subordinate rank, so long as the value of science was calculated solely with reference to theology; while, on the other hand, music was held in high estimation. The importance of music in divine service was too great, not to secure for it a prominent place amongst the subjects of instruction in the schools at that period. To the service of God, solemnities are essential which are able to set the spirit free from the common cares and interests of life, and to attune it to the sublimest sentiments of devotion. Nothing short of a revolution, which, in the violence with which it overturns all existing institutions, brings about the opposite extreme, could have induced men to sever the connection between the arts and religion, to banish all ceremonies and to substitute a cold morality for the heart-stirring doctrines of religion. The churches robbed of their decorations became mere lecture-rooms, the pulpit was degraded into the professor’s chair, whence the teacher delivered to his audience a discourse on morals. But as soon as the excitement produced by such contests has subsided, a mere address to the understanding will be found incompetent to rouse men from apathy, and the necessity of adopting some mode of external worship that shall appeal directly to the feelings will become apparent. In the absence of other means, appropriate music and singing are and ever will be the simplest, and at the same time the most effectual. What at that time was called music, was nothing more than chanting; but this defect Charlemagne endeavored to remedy to the best of his ability; for he himself had a taste for music, which he cultivated under Alcuin’s instruction. The choir of his cathedral was the most celebrated in France, and was considered a model for that of all the other churches.
The system of Theology, and the interest taken by Charles and his friends in the studies appertaining to it, will find a more appropriate place for discussion, when the controversy betwixt the orthodox church and the new sect of Adoptionists passes under review. It is probable that during his first residence at court, Alcuin communicated to the king his views on many subjects of importance both to the church and state; especially his sentiments with regard to the position of the Pope. As an Anglo-Saxon, he was imbued with the most humble and profound reverence for the holy see. In a letter to Hadrian the first, he acknowledges the Pope as the worthy successor of St. Peter, and styles him the heir of the power granted by Christ to the apostles, of binding and losing in heaven and on earth. He found the papal authority already firmly established in the French kingdom, particularly in that portion of it which was purely German; for the restoration of Christianity in those parts, where it had been formerly professed, and the introduction of it where it was utterly unknown, had been principally effected by the Anglo-Saxons.
The veneration felt by the Germans for their heathen priests was adroitly transferred by these Missionaries to the ministers of Christianity, and particularly to the sovereign pontiff, the Pope, of whom men conceived ideas magnified in proportion to the distance at which he governed. A model for the establishment of a hierarchy had been already furnished in the history of the Jewish nation, with which, through the medium of the Old Testament, the people were more conversant than with that of their own country, and which could not fail to have a considerable influence upon their political opinions. The Jewish polity afforded not merely the only rule that could be applied to public measures, and the only source from which the principles of administration could be derived; but it was a pattern which seemed so much the more worthy of imitation, as it had originated in God himself. The Carolingian family availed themselves of these opinions to promote their own advancement, and gave the theory a practical adaptation. Pepin concealed his usurpation under the authority of the Pope, and sanctified his person and the crown which he had so unjustly acquired, by causing himself and his family to be solemnly anointed first by St. Boniface, and afterwards by the Pope himself. It is recorded in the Old Testament, that the high priest Samuel nominated and anointed a king at the command of God, and that at the bidding of the same God, he deposed him in order to place another on his throne. The idea that the Pope was to be regarded as a second Samuel, who, like the former, was authorized to depose one king and consecrate another, was too convenient, not to become henceforth an important principle in all the political movements of the middle ages. Alcuin, therefore, naturally regarded the authority of the Pope as the highest upon earth, and ventured to avow his sentiments to Charlemagne himself. In the same degree as the see of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, was superior to every earthly throne, the Pope who occupied his see could not but be considered superior to every earthly power. Next in rank to the papal came the imperial dignity of the Byzantian emperors who governed the second Rome; and then followed that of royalty. Alcuin adds, however, by way of sweetening the bitter pill with a little flattery, that if King Charles theoretically held the third rank amongst the rulers of the earth, he practically by his power, his wisdom, and the splendor of his kingdom held the first. It is by no means surprising, that while opinions such as these were current in the world, the decretals of the false Isidorus should have been forged, and obtained credit. Though the grossness of the forgery is apparent on the very face of the work, the sentiments which it contained were neither new nor unheard of, but were compounded of principles already universally acknowledged, and of inferences deduced from those principles. The whole scheme of the Roman hierarchy, as it afterwards displayed itself, was devised at this period, and although retarded by subsequent unfavourable circumstances, it was sufficiently matured to burst forth at the first call of a bold and intrepid spirit in all its imposing grandeur.