ALCUIN AS ABBOT OF TOURS, UNTIL HIS DEATH, A.D. 796-804.
ALCUIN’S determination to renounce his native country now cost him a less painful struggle, as in consequence of the change which had been effected by his co-operation, he found himself placed in entirely different circumstances from those which attended him on his first arrival in France, when he came for the purpose of striving, in conjunction with a few others, against the ignorance and barbarism of the French clergy. He could at present obtain in France, his adopted country, a double measure of that which had rendered a residence in England agreeable to him; quiet, to pursue his literary occupations, and a circle of learned and intelligent men, who either reckoned themselves among his friends or his numerous pupils. His correspondence shows him to have maintained a friendly intercourse with nearly all the eminent men inhabiting the extensive territories of the French kingdom. As the greater part of them were indebted to him for the first impulse given to their intellectual powers, and as he exercised considerable influence over the minds of the others, a brief account of them and their labors may here find an appropriate place, and the rather, as the biography of Alcuin is merely a frame in which to exhibit the picture of the literary efforts of that period. We have already sufficiently adverted to the encouragement which they received from Charlemagne; not only did his commands operate upon the ecclesiastical order, but his example affected no less powerfully the laity who surrounded him. In addition to his favourite science, Astronomy, he pursued, from motives of piety, the study of Theology, which, even in the latter years of his life, occupied so much of his attention that he undertook to correct the Latin Gospels, by comparing them with the Greek original and a Syriac translation. He was both a competent judge of the literary qualifications of the clergy, and capable of superintending the means employed to produce a reformation in that body.
I.—Reformation of the Ecclesiastical Order.
On Charles’ accession to the throne, he found barbarians, hunters, soldiers, and drunkards, placed at the head of the church—he bequeathed to his successor an intelligent and influential clergy. This vast change was the effect of the persevering efforts which he made from the first year of his reign to wrest temporal weapons from the hands of the ministers of the church, to induce them to quit the camp and the chase for their own peculiar province, and to confine them to a sphere of action in which they might render themselves of more importance than if they stood exactly on a level with the feudal nobility. The military service imposed by Charles Martel on the clergy, had been followed by the debasement of the morals and destruction of discipline of the ecclesiastical body. The first step, therefore, taken by Charlemagne, was to issue a proclamation prohibiting the ministers of the church from bearing arms, or appearing in the camp, with the exception of a few who were required to perform divine service and carry the relics of saints. But though the warlike bishops might grant that it was unlawful to shed Christian blood, they held it quite consistent with their vocation and dignity to draw the sword against heathens. Charles, however, forbad their taking any part in the war against the Pagan Saxons and Sclavonians, requiring of them no other assistance but their prayers for the success of his arms. To this prohibition was annexed another, forbidding the clergy to hunt or to range the forests with dogs and hawks. That this edict was ineffectual, appears from its republication the following year, 789, in a more severe form. Hunting was a national amusement, of which a free man would not easily suffer himself to be deprived, and therefore, to save appearances at least, Charles was obliged to connect the permission to hunt, expressly granted to some monasteries, with objects which might be regarded as consistent with the clerical profession. The clergy were permitted to kill the hart and the roe, but only so many of them as were necessary to procure leather for the binding of books. This was also an indirect method of promoting the increase and circulation of books, as the love of sport among the clergy might be gratified in proportion to the extent of their library.
The love of spectacles, and the pleasure which the ecclesiastics derived from the jests of buffoons, and dramatic representations was, to Alcuin especially, as repulsive as their passion for the chase. We are ignorant, indeed, of the nature of the theatrical and mimic performances which were then practiced; but they must have been, on the one hand, sufficiently interesting to captivate and rivet the attention of men of letters; and, on the other, must have contained something which induced Alcuin to believe that an indulgence in them was perilous to the soul; although it is very possible that he went too far, and, like many sanctimonious persons of our own day, condemned, with unreasonable and ridiculous zeal, the theatre, a thing in itself innocent. His friend and pupil Angilbert, who appears, in the publications of those times, under the name of Homerus, a man whom Charles honoured with his confidence, and frequently employed in important embassies, drew upon himself the censure of Alcuin on account of his love of shows. A letter addressed to another of his pupils, Adelhard, who lived with Angilbert, proves to us his anxiety for the salvation of the soul of his friend, his efforts to wean him from that which he regarded as injurious, and his joy at having succeeded. “That which you have written to me”, he says, in the letter to Adelhard, “concerning the amendment of my Homerus, is a delight to my eyes. Although he has ever pursued an upright course, still there is no one in this world who ought not to forget the things which are behind, and press forward until he has obtained the crown of perfection. The only thing in him which grieved me, was his passion for theatrical representations, which vain shows placed his soul in no small jeopardy. I have therefore written to him on the subject, to prove to him that my affection is always on the watch. Indeed, it appears to me inexplicable, that a man so wise in other respects, should not perceive that he is acting in a manner unworthy his dignity, and in no way commendable”. It is probable, that it was at the instigation of Alcuin, that the king, in the decree against hunting, published in the year 789, also interdicted theatrical amusements to the clergy under pain of deprivation. But mere edicts and prohibitions would have failed to eradicate a deeply rooted custom founded upon prejudice and habit, if the king had not, in the manner already described, provided for the education of competent men, and conferred appointments upon them, and, by the respect with which he treated, and the influence which he allowed them, given others an example to stimulate their imitation, and spur their ambition. He frequently required the bishops, and superior clergy throughout his realm, to preach upon a subject selected by himself, which sermons were reported to him by his emissaries. He also, by the advice of Alcuin, who maintained, not without reason, that much instruction was to be gained by philosophical queries, often proposed various questions to the clergy, to which they were obliged to give a written reply. The queries proposed, had generally a reference to literature, or afforded an opportunity of embarrassing by irony, those who were acting in a manner unbecoming their profession, and of forcing from them the confession, that their actual condition was irreconcilable with their true calling. For instance, we meet with the following passage. “We wish that they would tell us truly what they understand by the declaration that they have renounced the world, and how those who have renounced it are to be distinguished from those who still cleave to it? Does the distinction merely consist in being unarmed and unmarried?”. In this way, a spirit of inquiry was constantly kept alive among the clergy; and no man ventured to aspire to any ecclesiastical office, who was conscious of not possessing the requisite qualifications. We may, therefore, conclude that by the year 796, when Alcuin resolved to settle in France, the reformation of the ecclesiastical order was completely effected, and that only here and there a priest was to be found who belonged to the old system. Charles was now enabled practically to evince the respect which he entertained for the clergy, and to yield to them that influence which was due to their profession and external power, and which they merited by their intelligence and talents. They held henceforth the rank assigned to them by the Carolingian constitution—the first in the state. The Carolingian dynasty established their throne on Christian principles, or at least on those borrowed from the sacred writings of Christianity, and transformed the French into a Christian government.
It is true, that the Merovingians had embraced the Christian religion, and caused themselves and their court to be baptized; but they changed nothing beyond the outward form, and that with the same indifference, as, under other circumstances, they would have adopted a new uniform. The Merovingian king retained the same relation to the French as he had previously held; the Carolingians, on the contrary, presented to the Germans an entirely different aspect of regal power. From the Bible, they became acquainted with kings, who, elected by the nation and consecrated and crowned by the Almighty, derived their authority from God. Consecration by the priest placed the Carolingian kings in this position. They subscribed themselves “by the grace of God”, and were accustomed to regard their authority as derived immediately from God, and to consider every other power in the state as proceeding from, and subordinate to them. Whilst, therefore, the Merovingian sovereign was satisfied at his inauguration to be borne aloft on a shield, before the eyes of the people, amidst the acclamations of the by-standers, the Carolingian system rendered consecration by a priest an essential and important ceremony. The Christian doctrine of the sacredness of the marriage contract formed also one of the fundamental laws regarding the succession. Under the Merovingian dynasty, the son of a concubine was as eligible to succeed to the throne, as the son of a lawful wife; and it would even appear that some of that house practiced polygamy. Under the Carolingian race, all illegitimate descendants were excluded from the succession; and examples of a departure from this rule occur only in times of confusion and distress, and were the consequence of revolutionary and illegal commotions. The same principle from which this and similar proceedings arose, induced the Carolingians to exterminate every vestige of paganism from among the Germans; and to enact strict laws for the solemn observance of Sunday, and fasts; as may be found among the ordinances concerning the discipline of the church. A reformation of the clergy was, therefore, necessary in a political point of view. They were the principal support of the throne, and therefore held the second rank in the state, but it never entered into the contemplation of Charlemagne, to regard the ecclesiastical power in any other light, than as subordinate to the regal authority. The king preferred employing the bishops and abbots in political transactions, because he expected more from their superior intelligence, than from men engaged in military pursuits, and was the more willing to entrust them with an extensive jurisdiction, as he felt convinced that a faithful minister of religion would be the most impartial administrator of law and justice. Charles had adopted measures for the administration and superintendence of his extensive dominions, as wise as the limited means he then possessed would admit of; but if the most perfect constitution still leaves scope to wicked men to commit injustice; this must doubly be expected from a kingdom such as France was at that time, notwithstanding the most upright intentions and utmost precautions of the sovereign. “I have no doubt of the good intentions of our lord the king”, writes Alcuin to his intimate friend, Arno, “and am convinced that he desires to order all things by the measure of justice; but amongst his ministers there are fewer who uphold than subvert justice, fewer who promote than impede it, because there are more persons who seek their own advantage than the glory of God”. Arno proposed to Alcuin that he should advise the king to empower deputies to administer justice in the provinces, and to appoint such only as were above the suspicion of accepting a bribe. These commissioners could be selected only from among the clergy, or the highest ranks of the laity; and we find, that, influenced by Alcuin’s counsel, the king nominated certain deputies in the year 801, selecting especially such men as were possessed of sufficient wealth to despise the despicable gains obtained by bribery and corruption, and who were not deficient in acuteness and information to investigate the most complicated affairs. It might naturally be inferred, even if it were not expressly mentioned, that they consisted chiefly of archbishops, bishops, and abbots. Possessing now an influence so great, it was easy for the clergy to resign the honour of military service; and they therefore, in conjunction with the whole nation, presented a petition in the year 803 to Charlemagne at the diet at Worms, begging him to release them from the duty of feudal service. In the contract which secured to the bishops immunity for their church lands, it is expressly enacted, that for the future, only so many ecclesiastics should accompany the army as were requisite for the performance of divine service, the administration of the sacraments and preaching. At the same time, the assurance was added, that their honour was in no wise injured by this arrangement; but rather would be augmented in proportion as they fulfilled their duty towards God and the holy church. Though much may be said against the position which was assigned to the clergy by Charlemagne, and though it cannot be denied that they were thereby placed in circumstances inconsistent with their peculiar vocation, still the exertions of the king to elevate the church which had been suffered to fall into contempt, to encircle so venerable and important an institution with external splendour, and to encourage a spirit of holiness within it, entitle him to the applause which subsequent times have bestowed upon him. Frederick the Great, the admirer and imitator of Charlemagne, caused him to be canonized; and surely his genuine piety, his endeavours to promote discipline in the church, to maintain the true faith, and to reform the ecclesiastical order, render him more worthy of a place in the calendar of saints, than many others who owed this distinction to superstition and party spirit.
2.—Concerning Charles’ Endeavours to improve the National Language, and the Academy he is said to have founded.
As the clergy were the chief instruments in the restoration of literature and science, and as it was for them that learning was principally intended, it followed, as a necessary consequence, that all education partook of a theological character, and that Latin was more cultivated than the national language. The clergy, whose taste had been refined by the cultivation of classical learning, on the one hand, despised their native language as a barbarous dialect, whilst, on the other, their Christian zeal led them to shrink from it as dangerous, from its association with paganism. The peculiar bent of Alcuin’s mind rendered him particularly desirous, not only that the language should be neglected, but that every trace of the heathen condition of the country should be obliterated; in which opinion, all who had been educated in his school, as well as those prelates whose views were similarly directed, concurred. Jerusalem and Rome possessed more interest in their eyes than the forests of their ancestors; and they sought to withdraw attention from them, and fix it on those cities glittering in the splendour of religion and philosophy. Hence, we find, in the writings of that period, that whenever a reference is made to history, the examples are taken from Judea, Rome, or Greece, and rarely from the records of national history, which even in those early times was strangely disguised, and associated most oddly with the deified heroes of antiquity, with the Trojan warriors and Alexander the Great. But notwithstanding the education of Charles had given his mind also a bias in that direction, and that he was compelled by the Carolingian constitution to eradicate all the remains of paganism from among the people, still his penetrating genius, unshackled by the trammels of religious zeal, saw the importance of cultivating a national literature, and the necessity of improving the national language. As Alfred the Great endeavored to substitute Latin for German among the Anglo-Saxons, and as he, in order to inspire the laity, in particular, with a taste for the sciences, himself translated some interesting works from Latin into German; so Charlemagne perceived, that to advance the national civilization, it would be necessary to introduce a foreign education, like as a husbandman grafts into his trees a branch from a superior stock to improve their quality and increase their produce. The only man in his immediate circle, who was competent to such an undertaking, was Deacon Paul of Lombardy, son of Warnefried. His history of the Lombards proves that he was well acquainted with the songs and traditions of his country, since it is in part composed of them in the same way as the historical work of Jordanes is compiled from the Gothic poems and legends. But, after a short residence with Charlemagne, Paul, probably dissatisfied with the relation in which he stood to the monarch who had annihilated the independence of his native land and overwhelmed with ruin his benefactor King Desiderius, had withdrawn from court and retired to the monastery of Monte Casino, where he lived until the year 799. Charles appears to have met with little support from Alcuin in his schemes for the promotion of the national literature, as is evident from the fact, that amongst the numerous letters written on scientific subjects, this matter is not once touched upon. But he was not thereby deterred from putting his own hand to the work. His biographer relates, that the king caused to be written down, and learnt by heart, some old German, or, as they are called in elegant Latin, barbarous songs, which celebrated the deeds and wars of former kings. It is well known, that the Germans, like other nations, who were ignorant of the art of writing, or amongst whom it is not in general use, perpetuated the memory of their heroes, both from a sense of gratitude and to kindle emulation, by songs which were communicated orally from one to another. The songs, however, collected by Charlemagne, seem not to have extended into the remote history, or to have comprehended many tribes of the German nation, if, indeed, we may speak of the Germans in those times as one nation. They were probably limited to the race of the Franks, and to the deeds and praises of the Merovingian kings. By this collection, the king hoped to form a basis, on which to construct a grammar of the German language. He, himself, commenced the task, but did not complete it; and nothing remains of this work of the great monarch, but the German names which he bestowed on the winds and months. The extinction of this species of literature was the work of the ecclesiastics. Heathen songs were to them an abomination, and the mind of Louis was too feeble to shake off the thraldom of the priests; and, like his father, entertain, on this subject, opinions unswayed by them. Bishop Theganus boasts of Louis, that, in his later years, he would not listen to the heathenish songs which he had learned in his youth, and even forbade their being taught. It was thus, that, in subsequent times, the classical studies of the clergy became distinct from the ordinary education of the people; and if any effort were made to associate the German language with Christianity, as was attempted by Ottfried’s German paraphrase of the Gospels, it proved ineffectual, from want of support from the superior clergy. Learning again retreated to the monasteries and clerical institutions, and the people sank into profound ignorance. Charlemagne’s design of introducing universal civilization failed, less because he had entered upon a wrong course, than because the more educated portion of the community chose to adopt a path which separated them from those who were yet uneducated. One consequence of this was, that the clergy, from their political position, were subsequently involved in temporal pursuits, and, instead of disseminating learning amongst the people, introduced ignorance into the church. Although, from these unfavourable circumstances, the glorious attempt of Charlemagne failed to attain its object, still its singularity places it in a light the more conspicuous, and it merits, perhaps, as great, if not greater admiration, than the valour by which he conquered, and the wisdom with which he governed, such a vast extent of territory.
This detail shows, that, in his anxiety for the improvement of the German language and literature, Charlemagne stood almost alone, and that there is no foundation for the assertion which has been made, that one of the academies founded by Alcuin at the court of France, was established expressly for the study and advancement of the German language. Opinions and statements are to be met with in history, which have been originally introduced from a certain external probability, and which, caving once succeeded in obtaining admission, claim a prescriptive right to the place they have usurped, although owing it solely to misconception. To this class, belongs Charlemagne’s academy. Charles, as well as his learned friends, are mentioned in the writings of that period under assumed names, from which it has been inferred, that some literary society or academy existed at the French court, in which, as in modern times, the members adopted some name according to their fancy or their partiality for this or that author. Fixed rules, and a distinct object, to attain which all the members labour in common, are necessary to constitute an academy; but no allusion is made to a society of that description, either in contemporary works, or the letters of Alcuin, who had ample opportunity of mentioning the fact, and was, of all men, least likely to omit doing so. The assumed names in no way refer to a literary society, unless a meaning be assigned to them belonging to the habits of a later period, rather than to what was customary and possible in the days of Charlemagne. It is, however, only necessary to have read Alcuin’s works with attention, to discover, that, from his predilection for allegory, he often bestowed names on his friends in jest, which, from their appropriateness remained attached to them in earnest, and became affixed to their real names as surnames, as, for example, Rabanus Maurus. The signification which has been attributed to them, is proved to be erroneous by the circumstance, that not only one surname was given them, but two, and even three, which varied with the circumstances to which they referred. So King Charles is usually called David, but many times, also, Solomon. As, in those days, historical references were chiefly derived from the Old Testament, so, on the one hand, nothing could be more flattering than a comparison with him who was peculiarly the founder of the Jewish kingdom, the brave, the single-minded, devout son of Jesse; and, on the other, with his successor, famed alike for his magnificence and his intelligence, and who, in the middle ages, was honoured as the type of spiritual wisdom. Alcuin himself was called Flaccus and Albinus; the former, probably for the same reason as procured the name to the Latin poet, or because he was particularly partial to Horace, whose lyric verse he imitated in the judgment of his contemporaries, not without success; the latter appellation is manifestly a mere accommodation of his Anglo-Saxon name to the euphony of the Latin tongue. Amongst others, the two brothers, Adelhard and Wala, had double surnames; the former was called Antoninus and Augustinus, the latter Arsenius and Jeremiah. Einhard, the private secretary and biographer of Charlemagne, is a striking instance of the reason why, and the way in which, these names were given. He was a mathematician, and skilled in architecture, for which reason, Alcuin calls him, after the Jewish architect, of whom mention is made in the books of Moses, Bezaleell. We may, therefore, venture to affirm that this pretended academy is a mere fiction, without in any way detracting from the renown of Charles, whose zeal in the cause of literature is proved by too many splendid examples to need the aid of such suspicious evidence.
3.—The Friends and Pupils of Alcuin.
Although there existed among the clergy and learned men of France, no society regulated by formal and fixed rules, and united for the purpose of effecting some specific purpose, still, a similarity of sentiments and education led them in one and the same direction, and gave to their efforts a character of uniformity, especially as Alcuin was their common centre. His influence is everywhere perceptible; throughout the whole of that period the predominating system was that introduced by him, and favoured by the principles of the Carolingian constitution; namely, that of identifying all learning with theology, and particularly of transforming philosophy into a science of Christianity. Science, like the government, was Christianized, if the purpose to which it was applied, that of establishing and defending the dogmas of the church, and protesting against everything that savoured of heathenism and heresy, entitled it to that distinction.
As Alcuin advanced in years, his feelings on this subject became more acute, and at length led him so far astray, that he forbade his disciples to read those philosophical and poetical compositions of antiquity, the perusal of which had cultivated and fascinated his own youthful mind. We, therefore, feel the less surprised, on finding that he took no part in the plans of Charles for the improvement of the German language and literature, and that, from his great influence, his example had a powerful effect on others. The greater part of the distinguished ecclesiastics in France were his pupils, and the few who were not among that number, were too feeble to resist the general current, even had they adopted contrary opinions. But this was not the case, as his friends, whose education had been entirely independent of him, entertained similar views. Amongst them was St. Paulinus.
He was a native of that part of the French kingdom known by the name of Austrasia, but had been brought up and educated in Italy, where he was still residing, when Charles, for the first time, crossed the Alps. He does not appear at that time to have attracted the attention of the king; but when the treasonable confederacy entered into by several of the dukes of Lombardy, with Duke Rotgaud of Friuli, at their head, compelled Charles to march a second time into Italy, in the year 776, Paulinus was amongst those on whom the king bestowed the confiscated estates, after he had forcibly suppressed the rebellion. It was, of course, the interest of the French monarch to place a portion of the lands of Lombardy and the highest ecclesiastical dignities in the hands of Franks; and it was to this circumstance, and the confidence which he had inspired, that Paulinus was indebted for his installation at that time, or soon after, as patriarch of Aquileia, whose residence was in Friuli. Alcuin valued him highly. “Since I have become acquainted with thee, dearest friend”, he writes to him, “I have ever loved thee, and my heart has formed a bond of friendship with thy heart”. He gave a proof of the estimation in which he held him, by proposing him as his coadjutor in the controversy with the Adoptionists. Paulinus engaged in the contest with so much ardour, that almost all his writings are upon the doctrine of the Trinity. He died shortly before Alcuin, who had, therefore, an opportunity of honouring him by an epitaph.
Theodulph, likewise, was at the court of France when Alcuin arrived, or, at all events, entered it at the same time with him. He appears to have been the teacher of the court school, until he obtained the abbacy of Fleury and the bishopric of Orleans. We have already noticed how zealously he here endeavored to execute the commands and wishes of the king, and by that means, naturally acquired the confidence and esteem of Charles, as well as the friendship of Alcuin. Alcuin mentioned him, as well as Paulinus, amongst the most learned men of the kingdom, whose support he desired in his contention with the heretics. The good understanding which subsisted between them, was so much interrupted by an event which will be noticed hereafter, that it was not restored at the time of Alcuin’s death, which occurred not long after, and was possibly accelerated by the grief which it occasioned him. Theodulph survived not only Alcuin, but Charles also. At the commencement of his reign, Louis the Pious evinced towards him the same respect as his predecessor had done; but Louis, as is well known, by degrees neglected the experienced, and tried counsellors of his father, and thereby excited the indignation of the wisest and most distinguished persons, which could not be otherwise than dangerous to him. Theodulph was amongst the number of the discontented, and fell a victim to the court intrigues, which must inevitably exist under so weak a prince as Louis. He was impeached on the charge of having participated in the rebellion of King Bernhard of Italy, and deprived of his dignities and benefices; notwithstanding that he protested against these proceedings, and maintained that he could be judged and condemned by the Pope alone, from whose hands he had received the pall. After an imprisonment of four years in a monastery at Angers, he was liberated and reinstated in his dignity. But the anguish of a long and unmerited captivity, seems to have impaired his strength to such a degree, that he was unable to reach Orleans, but expired on his way to that city, on the 18th September, 821. Theodulph was particularly eminent as a poet, and, compared with his contemporaries, whose poetical compositions were nothing more than prose thoughts and expressions forced into elegiac rhyme, teeming with errors in prosody, he deserved the proud appellation of Pindar. His poems are on moral and theological subjects, and some of them have the honour of retaining their place in the psalmody of the church, even to our own times.
ST. BENEDICT AND LEIDRAD.
St. Benedict of Anian, was one of Alcuin’s most intimate and devoted friends. His noble birth opened to him a splendid secular career, which he pursued with some success and distinction in the early part of his life, under Pepin and Charlemagne. He, however, speedily became so much disgusted with the life of a courtier and the tumult of business, that he retired, in the year 774, to the monastery of St. Seine. When a man like Benedict, weary of the world, has sought refuge from its cares and anxieties in the tranquillity of a cloister, he must be greatly mortified at discovering that the same jarring interests which had distracted him without, prevail within the sacred walls; and the desire would naturally suggest itself, of reforming the monastic life, which he found so little in accordance with his feelings. The failure of his attempts to produce an amendment in the community of which he had become a member, determined him to withdraw from it, and embrace the life of a hermit. He constructed a cell on the banks of the river Anian; but was not allowed to remain long in this solitude, for the fame of his sanctity, speedily collected around him so great a number of people who sought his instructions and shared his principles, that he was compelled to convert his hermitage into a monastery, over which he presided as abbot, and whence the improved Benedictine rules soon extended to many other communities. Benedict, therefore, contributed not a little towards the reformation of the clergy, and was, on that account, highly esteemed both by Charlemagne and Louis the Pious. He lived in the most friendly intercourse with Alcuin, whom, as we are informed by Alcuin’s anonymous biographer, he frequently visited, to ask his counsel for the salvation both of himself and his community. As the place of his abode was in the immediate vicinity of the source of the heretical doctrine of the Adoption, and consequently exposed his flock more than any other to its influence, he also laboured diligently to oppose it, in which, as has been already related, he had the benefit of Alcuin’s assistance. Auricular confession having fallen almost into disuse amongst the laity of Septimania; Alcuin, probably at the request of Benedict, addressed an epistle to the monks and priests of that province, in which he proved the necessity of auricular confession, both by texts from the Bible and from the nature of the thing itself. The editor of Alcuin’s works considers these arguments sufficiently solid and convincing, to reclaim the Protestants of the present day from their heretical opinions respecting confession. How much less likely were they to fail in their effect, at the period when they were propounded!
Leidrad, who still remains to be mentioned in the number of Alcuin’s friends, exchanged, like Benedict, a secular for a monastic life. Charles employed him upon embassies to various provinces, in all of which he acquitted himself with such success, that when the archbishopric of Lyons became vacant, the king considered him the person best qualified to restore order in the diocese, which, from bad management, had fallen into great confusion; and also to organize it entirely according to the new system. Leidrad justified the expectations of the king; he caused the decayed churches and monasteries to be rebuilt, re-established divine worship in a manner both splendid and imposing, and provided for the education of ecclesiastics of ability by founding schools and libraries. His multifarious occupations (for, in addition to his duties as a prelate, he was actively engaged in politics) left him too little leisure to admit of his bequeathing to posterity many written evidences of his sentiments; but they may be ascertained with tolerable accuracy from the opinions of his pupil and favourite Agobard, who, in the subsequent reign, was eminent for his enlightened understanding and political talents. Agobard speaks in terms of the highest commendation of the theological learning and orthodoxy of his master. After the death of Charlemagne, Leidrad resigned the archiepiscopal throne to Agobard, and retired to the monastery of St. Medardus at Soissons, where he resided until his death, the date of which is unknown.
If these men, whose education had been entirely independent of Alcuin, as well as many others whose names and merits are less familiar to us, adopted the same views as himself respecting those subjects which chiefly engaged his attention, such was much more likely to be the case with those whose minds had been formed under his immediate influence. Amongst his pupils who accompanied him from England, and settled with him in France, Wizo, Fredegis, and Sigulf were the most eminent. Wizo, who was surnamed Candidus, has not, indeed, rendered himself remarkable, either by his writings, or by occupying an exalted station in the church; but he was, therefore, the more active in disseminating instruction, and augmenting the number of books in France. On Alcuin’s retirement from court, he was succeeded by Wizo, who, it appears, in the year 796, undertook, at the head of a deputation formed of Alcuin’s pupils, a journey to England for the purpose of supplying France with some books in which she was still deficient, by transcribing works in the library at York. Alcuin’s letters testify the confidence reposed in him by his master, and the estimation in which he was held by Charlemagne.
Fredegis, who is designated in the writings of Alcuin, by the name of Nathanael, was for a while the associate of his fellow-pupil Wizo. They entered the court of Charlemagne together, on which occasion, as we have already noticed, Alcuin dedicated to them his commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes, hoping, by a lively picture of the vanity and transitory nature of all human affairs, to fortify their minds, when placed in a situation where they might be easily tempted to forget his precepts. Fredegis appears, on many occasions, to have formed part of the king’s retinue, and was, in all probability, frequently employed in a diplomatic capacity. Alcuin, therefore, committed a great error when he recommended him as his successor in the abbey of St. Martin; for Fredegis, who more frequently resided at court than in his monastery, and who was invested with the dignity of Chancellor by Louis the Pious, suffered the discipline, which Alcuin had established at the cost of so much labour, to fall into utter decay. His mode of handling philosophy and theology is quite in the style of Alcuin. In his treatise upon Nothing and Darkness, he endeavours to prove that they are not negative properties, but material substances. The Bible is the source from which he draws his arguments. He affirms that Nothing must be something material, because out of it, according to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures, God created the world; and that, although the truth of this proposition may not be evident, it is to him not less certain than many other declarations which appear incomprehensible, without being so in reality. In the same way, he will rather insist upon Darkness being a substance, than interpret the texts of Scripture in any but a literal sense. It will be found almost universally that men, whose minds are of too contracted a nature to embrace any peculiar and individual opinions, adhere with remarkable pertinacity to the system of their masters, and will urge it to extremes, and even to absurdity, rather than surrender it, though they have only outwardly adopted it without having made it internally their own. Fredegis affords an evidence of this obstinate attachment to ideas once imbibed. Having taken offence at a treatise written by the enlightened and unprejudiced Agobard, he entered the lists of controversy with him, and displayed, in the contest, that his theological views perfectly coincided with his philosophical notions. But a veteran combatant, like Agobard, speedily vanquished an adversary, unskilful and awkward in the use of weapons to which he was unaccustomed. Fredegis, affirmed, in opposition to him, that the commentators on the Scriptures were no more guilty of grammatical errors than their authors; that the Holy Spirit inspired not only the sense and substance of what the prophets and apostles wrote, but the very words and expressions which they were to adopt; they therefore stood in the same relation to the Holy Spirit, as Balaam’s ass did to the angel, who spoke by the animal. He made other similar assertions with which we are acquainted only through Agobard’s refutation, in which he demonstrates, not merely their actual absurdity, but the still more absurd consequences to which they led.
Sigulf, surnamed Vetulus, was Alcuin’s most faithful ally in the court-school, and also in that which he subsequently established in the monastery of St. Martin. When Alcuin resigned his benefices, he, with the consent of the king, bestowed the abbey of Ferrière on Sigulf, who superintended it with dignity, encouraging and promoting learning. The conscientious discharge of his duties left him no opportunity of distinguishing himself, either by a participation in affairs of state, or by literary compositions. We are indebted to him only for an account of Alcuin’s life and labours, which a monk of the monastery of Ferrière, with whose name we are unacquainted, committed to writing from Sigulf’s narration.
The sphere of influence widens around an instructor, in proportion to the length of time in which he labours in his vocation. Immediately on Alcuin’s arrival in France, a host of young men resorted to him, the most distinguished of whom continued to enjoy his esteem and affection, and are therefore entitled to some mention in the present work. To none of those who had been his pupils at the court-school was Alcuin so firmly attached, and in none did he repose such unlimited confidence as in Arno, whose surname, Aquila, denoted the qualities which Alcuin esteemed, and valued in him, namely, the sublimity of his genius, which bore him as on eagle’s wings above the common interests of life. He says of him in a letter, “there was no prelate in France in whom he reposed more confidence, whose eternal salvation he more earnestly desired, or the consolation of whose discourse he more longed to enjoy, both by conversation and epistolary correspondence”. So sincere an attachment presupposes a correspondent degree of merit in the object, and we may, therefore, conclude, without knowing the particulars, that Arno, as archbishop of Salzburg, promoted the objects of Charlemagne to the utmost of his power, and that he acted in entire conformity with Alcuin’s views. He founded a library at Salzburg in which he placed a careful and accurate copy of the works of his master, Alcuin.
ANGILBERT, ADELHARD, BERNARIUS, WALA.
Angilbert, called also Homerus, was likewise indebted to Alcuin for his education; and although he, in the early part of his life, pursued a secular career, and that with considerable success, still he constantly maintained an intercourse with his former master, and devoted himself to those studies which endeared his memory to him. Charlemagne, on sending his son, Prince Pepin, to take possession of the kingdom of Italy, which had been assigned him, committed him to the care of Angilbert, who, for some time, conducted, as prime minister, the affairs of the state. At the expiration, however, of a few years, he returned to France, in order to undertake the office of private secretary or chaplain to Charlemagne himself. During his residence at court, he gained the affections of Charles’ daughter, Bertha, to whom he appears to have been privately married. At all events, they had two sons, the historian Nithard and Harnid, who succeeded their father in his possessions, and attained to considerable eminence in the subsequent reign. It was, probably, in consequence of the discovery of this union, that Angilbert was induced to embrace the monastic life. In the year 790, he resigned his temporal dignities, and retired to the monastery of St. Richarius at Centula, over which he presided as abbot, until the year 814, when he died. None of his writings have reached us with the exception of a few poems.
Adelhard, with his two brothers, Bernarius and Wala, were also among the number of those who had been brought up at the court-school under Alcuin’s superintendence; and their sisters, Theodrada and Gundrada, were likewise his pupils. They were connected with the reigning family, being the children of Bernhard, brother of Pepin. The highest dignities in the church were open to them; in fact, as collateral branches of the royal house, nothing remained to them but to seek protection in the church from the suspicious jealousy of the reigning monarch. In this respect, the French court at that period, resembled pretty much those of Turkey and Persia, only with this difference, that in France the younger branches of the royal family were buried in the obscurity of a cloister, whilst in Turkey they are murdered, and in Persia, deprived of sight. The natural inclination of Adelhard, the eldest of the brothers, had already induced him to select the church as his profession; and in order to qualify himself by study for his spiritual calling, he had spent his early youth in Italy, particularly at Monte Casino, then the most renowned seat of learning in that kingdom. On his return to France, he became acquainted with Alcuin, under whose instructions he completed his education. Adelhard was installed abbot of Corbie, in which capacity he had ample opportunity of co-operating in the reformation of the clergy, and of contributing his part to the dissemination of learning. That he was diligent in the performance of these duties, may be inferred from the confidence reposed in him by Charlemagne, who entrusted to his management, state affairs of considerable importance. In the year 796, he became prime minister to King Pepin in Italy, in the room of Angilbert, and to use the expression of Hincmar, frequently appeared at the court of Charlemagne, the chief amongst the principal councillors of the king. The generous confidence which Charles reposed in his relatives was withdrawn by his pusillanimous successor, whose timid jealousy prompted him to treat them with injustice. Without any reason assigned by contemporary writers, and probably merely in consequence of calumnious reports, Adelhard was banished to the island of Hero or Hermoutier. A monastery in the island of Lerin was appointed for the residence of Bernarius; and Wala, who had not yet taken holy orders, was compelled to become a monk. Even their sisters were detained for some time in captivity. In the year 821, Adelhard regained his liberty, and was reinstated in his dignity. He was of too gentle a nature to avenge the wrongs he had sustained, otherwise than by exerting himself zealously in the general assemblies of the state to promote the welfare of the church and state, which the emperor neglected, less from evil design than from weakness of understanding, and partiality to his favourites. Adelhard died in the year 826, previously to the breaking out of the civil war in France. He was succeeded by Wala, who, unlike his meek-spirited brother, rendered himself conspicuous, as one of the most violent opponents of the emperor, and avenged himself on the cruel tyrant who had driven him from the world, by hurling against his enemy the spiritual weapons with which he had armed him. Little remains to us of the writings of Adelhard. Of his most considerable work, “On the Order and Management of the Royal Household, and the whole French Monarchy, under Pepin and Charlemagne”, we have merely an abstract made by Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims, for the benefit of King Carloman. This abstract has superseded the original work for, at a time when books were all in manuscript, brevity was a great recommendation.
RICULF, ARCHBISHOP OF METZ.
Riculf, archbishop of Metz, designated in Alcuin’s works by the name of Flavius Damotas, still remains to be mentioned amongst his pupils. Of him but little is known; he presided at a council held at Metz in the year 813, rendered remarkable by the wisdom of their deliberations, and the prudence of their determinations. Amongst other topics, the continual extension of education was particularly urged; and it was declared to be incumbent on the clergy, not merely to afford parents an opportunity of procuring instruction for their children, but also to see that they availed themselves of the opportunity. Riculf’s name is likewise associated with the false Decretals ascribed to Archbishop Isidorus; for Hincmar of Rheims accuses the archbishop of Metz of being the first who conveyed this unlucky production across the Pyrenees, and circulated it in his diocese. In consequence of this accusation, Riculf has been suspected of being himself the author of the Decretals of Isidorus. But it is impossible to believe, that a prelate educated in Alcuin’s school, and elevated by Charlemagne to the primacy of Germany, would, had he wished to impose upon the world, have fabricated so clumsy a deception as to be instantly detected; nor is it conceivable, that so accomplished a scholar, as there is every reason to suppose Riculf to have been, would have put into the mouth of a Roman bishop of the first and second centuries, which may be considered as belonging to the most flourishing period of Roman literature, when Seneca, Tacitus, and Pliny wrote, words and phrases which owed their origin to the barbarism of the French. Neither can any plausible reason be assigned, which could have induced Riculf to represent the archiepiscopal dignity, as so dependent upon the See of Rome, as it is pronounced to be in the Decretals of Isidorus. This collection is manifestly the production of one not very well acquainted with the classical language of antiquity; it is equally evident that it was written by an inferior member of the church, who, in order to avenge himself upon one archbishop, sought to mortify all. Suspicion rests with the greatest probability upon Benedict, an ecclesiastic of Metz, the individual who collected the capitulars of the French kings, and published them, in the order in which they now stand. This imposition, however, would probably not have been attended by any important consequences, had not, on the one hand, the elements of which it was constituted practically existed, so as to render it easy to transfer them to an earlier period; and, on the other, had not the bishops, and the rest of the clergy, found it to their advantage to make themselves independent of the archbishops and laity, by submitting to an authority so remote as that of the Holy Father at Rome.
RICHBOD, ARCHBISHOP OF TREVES.
Richbod, archbishop of Treves, surnamed Macarius, also deserves a place in this brief sketch of the most distinguished men who enjoyed the advantage of Alcuin’s instruction. Alcuin’s selection of him, in preference to all his other pupils, to aid him, in conjunction with the men already mentioned, in the controversy with the Adoptionists, affords a flattering testimony of his learning and talents. The treatise which Richbod wrote against Felix, at the request of Alcuin, no longer exists; but his master speaks of it in terms of approbation, both with regard to the style and the matter, and considers it as alone sufficient to confute the heretics. There is no doubt that the industry with which he promoted the designs of Charlemagne, acquired the confidence and commendation of Alcuin.
We omit the mention of other eminent men, as Einhard, Agobard, and others, whose minds were formed during this period, but whose energies were not displayed till some years subsequently; because, although they were indebted for their intellectual cultivation to the institutions founded by the exertions of Charlemagne, and conducted by Alcuin, still they were not personally instructed by him. It is evident that Einhard became a pupil at the court-school, subsequently to Alcuin’s resignation of the directorship; and although he never ceased to interest himself in the institution, and although young Einhard’s proficiency in mathematics may have excited his attention and applause, as it is plain it did; still, his connection with him was too remote to require a particular description. We, therefore, immediately proceed to the consideration of the school established by Alcuin, in the monastery at Tours, and the men who there received their education.
4.—Alcuin as Director of the Monastic School at Tours.
The first object which engaged Alcuin’s attention after he had undertaken the superintendence of the abbey at Tours, was the establishment of a school. To one who, like Alcuin, has spent his whole life in imparting instruction, and in whose very letters the tone of the pedagogue is perceptible, teaching becomes a necessary mental exercise. The school was the element which he sought, as eagerly as the fish pants for the water in which alone it moves with alacrity and pleasure. It is probable that he had at first many difficulties to encounter, from the rude and unpolished habits of his community, who had hitherto been more occupied in tilling the ground, than in cultivating their minds. Useful as the monastic orders had been in the early stages of society, especially in Germany, in clearing the forests, planting the plains with corn, and the hills with vines; yet now, something more, particularly in France, was required of a spiritual fraternity. It must have cost Alcuin no little trouble to wrest the implements of agriculture from the hands of the monks, in order to substitute the pen, and to make them comprehend, that transcribing books was more profitable than dressing vines, inasmuch as the former occupation was more ennobling to the mind than the latter. He succeeded, however, in overcoming every obstacle; and as the monastery soon became one of the most celebrated for its internal arrangement, so Alcuin’s personal qualifications speedily obtained such extensive reputation for the school which he had established there, that numbers resorted thither for instruction. Next to the court-school, it was the first in the kingdom, and would not have been surpassed by that, had Alcuin been able to overcome the irritability of old age; and had he not been so pedantic as to exclude from his system of education the heathen poets and philosophers. We have already laid before the reader, part of the letter in which Alcuin describes to Charlemagne his exertions in the school; to which he adds, that he did not possess the books necessary for the attainment of his object, and that nothing excited in his mind such a longing after his native country as this deficiency in books. He therefore subjoins to this complaint, a request that he may be allowed to send by royal authority some of his pupils to England, in order, as he expresses it, that these invaluable fruits of wisdom may be transplanted into France, and flourish in the garden of Tours as luxuriantly as at York. “It is not unknown to your wisdom”, he proceeds, “that in every page of the sacred Scriptures we are admonished to learn wisdom, for there is nothing which tends more to the attainment of a happy life, nothing more delightful in practice, nothing more efficacious in resisting vice, nothing more commendable in an exalted station, and, according to the declarations of philosophy, nothing more requisite in governing a people, than the ornament of wisdom, the praise of learning, and the influence of education. Hence, the wise Solomon exclaims :
Wisdom is better than rubies; and all things that may be desired, are not to be compared to it. She it is who exalteth the humble and abaseth the proud. By her kings reign. Blessed are they who keep her ways and watch daily at her gates.' (Prov. VIII. 11, 15, 32, 34).
Exhort then, my lord king, the youth in the palace of your highness, to learn with all diligence and to strive daily to acquire wisdom, that they may make such progress in the bloom of their youth as will bring honour upon their old age, and finally, by wisdom, obtain eternal blessedness. I also, according to the measure of my poor ability, will not cease to scatter in this soil the seed of wisdom amongst your servants, remembering the exhortation :
In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand, for thou knowest not whether this or that shall prosper, or whether they both shall prosper, which were still better”. (Eccles. II. 6)”.
It would naturally be concluded that Charlemagne granted this request, even did Alcuin’s letters not inform us, that Wizo undertook a journey to York about this time, at the head of a commission, in consequence, we may reasonably suppose, of the desire expressed by Alcuin. The copies which were made at York by the commissioners, were multiplied at Tours, and dispersed among the principal libraries in the kingdom. Libraries had increased in number since they had become in France, as in England, the chief ornaments of a monastery, and an introduction to the favour of Charlemagne. It has been already mentioned how earnestly Alcuin recommended accuracy and care in transcribing, and how successfully we may judge from the manuscripts of that period, which are remarkable for neatness and elegance of execution. The smaller Roman letters began now to be adopted instead of the pointed Merovingian characters; the large letters, also, again came into use, for besides the monogram and coins of Charlemagne, whole manuscripts are to be found written in this character. From the scarcity and costliness of writing materials, rich monasteries only were able to furnish extensive libraries; for since the conquest of Egypt by the Arabs, and the interruption of the commercial intercourse with that country, paper, which had formerly been one of the articles of import, ceased to be used, and parchment became its only substitute. It is, doubtless, to this circumstance, that the loss of many valuable works is to be ascribed. In an old parchment volume, how often may the writing have been effaced, in order to afford space for the insertion of a subject possessing greater novelty and interest, although, perhaps, it was only a miserable legend, that usurped the place of a masterwork of antiquity? Under such circumstances, it was to be expected that the royal library, or that connected with the court-school, having more resources at command than any other, should be the richest, and less frequently under the necessity of destroying an ancient work, in order to insert in its place a modern composition. At all events, the efforts of this period to collect good copies of the best works, are so much more commendable, as, in the following century, the general interest in this subject ceased, and only a few persevered in augmenting the rare treasure. Louis the Pious received, amongst other presents from Michael the Stammerer, emperor of Byzantium, a work of Dionysius the Areopagite, which, at the command of Charles the Bald, was translated into Latin by John Erigena, and became the source of many of the enthusiastic and mystical ideas of the middle ages. The Abbot Lupus, of Ferrière, who in his letters cannot sufficiently express his admiration and envy of the splendid efforts which had formerly been made for the advancement of learning, informs us that he himself sent for the works of Sallust, Cicero’s treatise upon Oratory, and the Institutes of Quintilian, from Italy, because throughout the kingdom of France, he could find only detached portions, and no perfect copy of these books.
Whilst Alcuin was actively engaged in augmenting the number of books and increasing their circulation, he was at the same time diligent in cultivating the minds of men, so as to enable them to value and profit by reading. Some of the most eminent scholars of the succeeding century, were educated in the school of St. Martin, amongst which number may be reckoned Rabanus, surnamed Maurus. A letter of Alcuin’s is still extant, addressed to him, as it would appear, after his return to Fulda, in which he desires that he would keep his promise, and write a book in praise of the Holy Cross (De Laudibus S. Crucis). Rabanus became first Abbot of Fulda ; and when Alcuin’s school at Tours lost both its reputation and usefulness, under the careless management of the Abbot Fredegis, that at Fulda rose, through the ability of Rabanus, to so high a degree of celebrity, as to be regarded as one of the first in the kingdom. He rigorously pursued Alcuin’s method of instruction, in obedience, at once, to the commands of his sovereign and the conviction of his own understanding. His talents were speedily acknowledged, and magnificently rewarded, being raised by Louis, the German, in the year 847, to the archbishopric of Metz. The strictness with which he endeavored to enforce Alcuin’s principles, in this more extensive sphere of action, is evident from the circumstance, that before he had enjoyed his new dignity a year, he was called upon to suppress and chastise a mutiny among his own people. The severity with which he attempted to restore the discipline of the church, which had fallen into decay under the administration of his predecessor Otgar, was, in all probability, the cause of this rebellion, since no other is assigned. His participation in the learned controversies of those times, and his writings, do not belong to our present subject.
When Rabanus was summoned from the abbey of Fulda, to assume the archiepiscopal see of Metz, he transferred the direction of the monastery, and the management of the school, to Hatto, who had formerly been his fellow-pupil at Tours, and subsequently his assistant at Fulda. As a disciple of Alcuin, Hatto, therefore, continued the same system. Another distinguished scholar of this period, Samuel, who first became a teacher at Fulda, afterwards abbot of the monastery of Lorsch, and finally, in the year 838, was elevated to the bishopric of Worms, is likewise to be noticed amongst Alcuin’s pupils at Tours. Haimon, also, who in the year 840, was appointed bishop of Halberstadt, which dignity he retained until 853, received his education in the monastery of St. Martin.
Adelbert, who, under the name of Magus, is mentioned with much commendation by Alcuin in his letters, and Aldrich, were likewise brought up at Tours. Adelbert distinguished himself while abbot of Ferriere, by conducting, on Alcuin’s system, the school which had been founded by his predecessor Sigulf, and by maintaining the discipline which he had introduced. Upon his early death, which took place in 822, his fellow-pupil, Aldrich, occupied his place. Aldrich had rendered himself acceptable at the court of Louis the Pious, by his orthodoxy and learning, and was, therefore, not permitted to remain long in a subordinate station, but was elevated by Louis, in the year 828, to the vacant archiepiscopal see of Sens. He remained, from a sense of gratitude, firmly attached to the imperial party, during those years of confusion and distress, when Louis was exposed both to the hostile attempts of his sons, and the treachery of his friends and relatives. He was one of those who laboured most zealously to abolish the measures adopted by the rebels, and to effect the complete restoration of Louis. Almalarius still remains to be noticed amongst Alcuin’s pupils at Tours. Two cotemporary scholars and ecclesiastics bore this name, both of whom rendered it illustrious the one by the high dignity to which he attained, as archbishop of Treves, and the performance of the duties annexed to his station; the other, by his writings. They were, probably, both pupils of Alcuin, and, therefore, of both, brief mention may be made. Archbishop Amalarius, surnamed by some, Fortunatus, possessed in a high degree the confidence of Charlemagne, who entrusted to him, in the year 811, the important charge of regulating the churches in Transalbingia, that part of Saxony which had striven the longest against the dominion of the Franks, and the introduction of Christianity. On this occasion, Amalarius consecrated the church in Hamburg, and executed the whole of his commission with so much success, that the emperor, a few years afterwards, employed him on a no less important mission. In the year 813, he was sent as ambassador to Constantinople, in order to arrange the treaty of peace, which had been concluded with the Emperor Michael I, who had at last, consented to recognize the imperial title of Charles, and also to settle some differences respecting the boundaries of their dominions. These occupations left him but little time for literary composition; and there is no doubt that the works published under his name, and which have been ascribed to him, are the productions of another cotemporary, Amalarius, surnamed Symphosius, who enjoyed considerable reputation in the theological world, and became involved in several literary disputes. His writings refer, principally, to the liturgy and discipline of the church. At the command of Louis the Pious, and by the aid of the imperial library, he compiled “Rules for Canons”, which were as universally adopted in France as St. Benedict’s “Rules for Monks”. His works on the liturgy are no less important, their object being to render divine service uniform throughout Western Christendom, to bring it into accordance with the Roman church, as the most perfect model, and thereby complete the work which Charlemagne had commenced. As his system was directed against the mode of worship which had been introduced into many churches, he could not fail to meet with opposition. But, notwithstanding the resistance of a man like Agobard, and an ecclesiastic of great renown in Lyons, the deacon Florus, the Roman form of worship eventually prevailed, and thereby extended and confirmed still farther, the authority of the Pope. The manner in which Amalarius interprets the Bible, and attributes to the festivals and rites of the church, a mystical signification, betrays him to have been a disciple of Alcuin.
5.—Alcuin’s Philosophical and Historical Works.
There were many claims on Alcuin’s diligence, in addition to his superintendence of the monastery and direction of the school. His extensive correspondence, of which we possess but a small portion, embraced, in its wide range, the whole kingdom of France, and every topic of interest belonging to that period. At one time he was called upon to reply to the scientific and political enquiries of King Charles, at another, to maintain an intercourse with his friends and pupils, animating their zeal by the fervour of his style, and guiding their judgment by the wisdom of his remarks. In this way he continued, even at Tours, to be the instructor and counsellor of all the educated portion of society throughout France. We have already had occasion to adduce an instance of the ardour with which many of the lay nobility pursued the course which Charles had adopted. The example of a sovereign must necessarily exert an influence on all around him; in truth, the tone which prevails at court, is that by which the majority of those who frequent it regulate their course of action and mode of thinking. We find, therefore, persons holding the highest offices of the state in the Carolingian empire, manifesting for the sciences a regard previously unknown. Amongst this number was Wido, who was for some time margrave of Brittany. The town of Tours was situated within this district, and frequent intercourse with Alcuin inspired Wido with so much reverence for his opinion, that he requested him to write a book by which he might judge of his actions and regulate his conduct. Alcuin composed for this purpose, his treatise on the Virtues and Vices, that it might, as he says, serve the margrave as a mirror wherein he could discover at a glance, what he ought to do and what to leave undone. A subject so entirely practical could not be treated according to the strict rules of philosophy. The author commences with Wisdom, and the three chief Christian virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, and then proceeds to enumerate, without any precise order, the different virtues and vices. He characterizes each, and endeavours by a striking description of the individual peculiarities of each virtue and vice, and by interspersing texts from the Bible, to allure the mind to the former, and render the latter odious. Each description forms the subject of a separate section, and is, as it were, a short sermon. The chapter upon Humility may serve as a specimen of the mode in which the author treats of the virtues.
“We may learn how great a virtue is humility, from the words of the Lord, who, in order to reprove the pride of the Pharisees, said, Whosoever exalts himself shall be abased, and whosoever humbles himself shall be exalted. The path of humility conducts to heaven, for the high and lofty One is to be approached, not with pride, but with humility. This we learn from the words, God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble. (James, IV. 6). It is also said in the Psalms, The Lord is high and regards the lowly, but knows the proud afar off. (Ps. CXXXVIII. 6). He regards the lowly in order to exalt them, and knows the proud in order to humble them. Let us learn humility, by which we may draw nigh unto God; he himself says in his Gospel, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matt. XI. 29). Through pride, the angels, that wondrous creation, fell from heaven; through humility, frail human nature is raised to heaven. A humble deportment is honourable among men; for Solomon says, Where pride is, there is also shame; but wisdom is with the lowly.' (Prov. XI. 2). Even so says the Lord, by the prophet, But I look to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word. (Isa. LXVI. 2). Whosoever is not humble and gentle, in him the grace of the Holy Spirit cannot dwell. Even God humbled himself for our salvation, that all men might be ashamed of pride. The lower the heart is sunk in humility, the higher is its reward above; for whosoever is lowly here, shall be raised with power and glory there. The first step in humility, is to listen with patience to the word of God, to keep it in faithful remembrance, and obey it with cheerfulness; for truth departs from those minds which are devoid of humility. The more humbly a man thinks of himself, the greater does he become in the sight of God; and, on the other hand, the more dazzling the proud man is to his fellow beings, the more abominable he is in the eyes of the Lord. To perform good works without humility, is to carry dust in the wind. How can a man of dust and ashes be proud, when all that he appears to have heaped up by fasting and alms-giving, is scattered abroad by the blast of pride? Cease then, Oh man I to glory in thy virtues, since in this matter thou wilt be judged not by thyself, but by another, before whom thou must humble thy heart, if thou wouldst be exalted by him in the day of retribution. Descend from thy high estate that thou may reach one much higher ; humble thyself that thou may attain greater glory, and not be deprived of that whereof thou boast. Whosoever is little in his own eyes is great before God; and whosoever abhors himself, is well pleasing unto the Lord. Be therefore little in your own sight, that you might be great in the eyes of God. Your worth will be the more esteemed by God, the less it has been esteemed by you. When in the enjoyment of the highest honours, maintain the greatest humility. The brightest gem in the crown of honour, is humility”.
In a similar manner, the author treats of individual vices. As a specimen, we will select his dissertation upon anger; not because it is the most beautiful, but because it is the shortest. “Anger is one of the eight principal vices. When no longer under the control of reason, it is converted into fury; in which case, a man is no longer master of himself, but is hurried into the commission of actions the most unbecoming, When this passion has once taken possession of the heart, prudence is banished, and the mind becomes incapable of judging impartially, of reflecting wisely, or of deliberating maturely; but executes everything rashly. Anger is the root whence spring tumults, quarrels, and contentions, clamours, discontent, arrogance, calumnies, blood-shedding, murder, revenge and implacability. It is to be overcome by patience and forbearance, and by the exercise of the reason which God has implanted in man; also, by remembering, what injustice and sufferings Christ endured for us, and calling to mind the Lord’s prayer, wherein it is said, Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”
CAPACITIES OF THE SOUL.
This treatise, which, from the nature of its contents, deserves to be denominated moral, rather than philosophical, continued to be held in high estimation in the following century, and single chapters of it formed the material of elaborate sermons. It would, probably, have assumed a different form, had the author not purposely adapted it to the object for which it was designed, and the character and education of the man to whom it was to serve as a manual. In fact, we find that his work “Upon the Nature of the Soul'”, is of a totally different character. And although it is dedicated to a woman, Adelhard’s sister, Gundrada, or, as she is otherwise called, Eulalia, still she was accustomed to Alcuin’s theological speculations, and was as eager in the pursuit of knowledge, and as capable of comprehending abstruse doctrines, as Gisla and Richtrude. An acquaintance with the then prevailing opinions respecting the science of psychology is so important, and so interesting, that we the more willingly present the render with the substance and general tenor of this elegantly written treatise. According to Alcuin, the soul is of a threefold nature, consisting of Desire, Passion, and Reason. Desire and Passion are properties possessed by man in common with the brutes; but Reason is peculiar to him, and is that which elevates him above other animals. The virtues belonging to Reason, are the four cardinal virtues; which, in this treatise, as well as at the conclusion of that upon Rhetoric, are made to harmonies with the doctrines of Christianity. These virtues are to control Desire and Passion. In order to distinguish between the good and the bad, we must ascertain whether Desire is so entirely under the dominion and guidance of Reason, that it seeks those things only which are profitable and reasonable; and Passion or Anger is excited by, and exercised only against that which is evil; or whether Reason is too feeble to restrain these two propensities. The Soul is an image of God, and remains so, as long as it continues good, and even in souls debased by sin, this image cannot be totally effaced. In order to preserve this pure image, we must love God and our neighbour; and then we shall not transgress against ourselves, and our bodies. The Soul possesses three faculties, Understanding, Will, and Memory, by which, however, it is no more divided, so as to lose its unity, than the Godhead by the Trinity, for these faculties are merely relative. Independently of these, it possesses, likewise, the power of imagination, both in reference to the objects which we behold, for the first time, as well as to those which we have formerly seen, or of which we have only heard. But, however many imaginations or thoughts may pass through the soul, they are always consecutive or simultaneous. Herein consists a wide distinction between human nature and the perfect essence of the Deity, whose infinite mind comprehends all things at the same time, which constitutes his omnipresence. The superior origin of the human soul is also evinced by its constant restlessness and activity, which cease not even when the corporeal senses and powers, exhausted by toil, sink into repose. Even this indicates its immortality, which would have been quite perfect, had the soul continued as pure as when it first came from God’s creating hand; but it may lose a portion of its immortality by sin. For as the soul is the life of the body, so God is the life of the soul; when the soul departs from the body, the body dies; in like manner, when God departs from the soul, or when it departs from him, its better part is destroyed. It retains its imperishable nature, but loses its capacity for the enjoyment of eternal bliss. All these properties being combined, the soul may be defined as a spiritual reasonable essence, which is perpetually in motion, and never ceasing to exist; which is equally capable of good and evil, and consequently perfectly free to choose between the two; to the free will, therefore, of the soul, is to be ascribed every action, whether ennobling or degrading. It may further be defined as an essence, which has been created and united to the body, in order to regulate its passions, and is therefore invisible, incorporeal, without weight or color, and pervading every particle of the body. In the beginning, it was stamped with the image of God; and though it may depart from its creator, and thereby forfeit everlasting bliss, still its immortality remains, together with a consciousness of its worth. The soul is variously denominated according to its various capacities, but admits of no distinction of parts or separation. “As the animating principle, the general term, Soul, is applied to it; when it rises to contemplation, it is designated the Mind; when its sensibilities are awakened, Feeling; when it approves or disapproves, Taste, or Judgment; when it draws conclusions, Reason; when it discriminates, Understanding; when it consents, Will; when it recollects, Memory”. As virtues are the beauties, so vices are the deformities of the soul. As it is impossible to arrive at any certainty respecting its origin, we must be content to derive it from God. The treatise concludes with two poems, one in Elegiac, the other in Adonic verse. Alcuin states, that he made choice in these verses of the number six, being the most perfect, in order to signify his desire that she might continue to advance towards perfection. Should she meet with any subject which she did not comprehend, she is directed to have recourse to King Charles (at whose court Gundrada must then have been residing), that wise king, the nobility of whose mind could never be sufficiently admired. “Thou have no need”, he continues, “to enquire of us concerning the causes of things, or the hidden principles of natural phenomena, whilst thou hast daily an opportunity of applying to the enlightened wisdom of the king, and beholding his honoured countenance. Neither is it requisite for thee to travel the long and wearisome road from Ethiopia to Jerusalem, in order to hear the wise Solomon discourse upon the nature of things. Behold, he is near to thee, whom the Queen of Sheba visited, regardless of distance and of difficulty”.
Many more letters of Alcuin, in which moral and philosophical subjects are discussed, might here be adduced, were these examples and analytical investigations not sufficient to elucidate his method of reasoning on theories of this description. With the general extension of education, history assumed a much more attractive form. It was natural to anticipate, that men, who, like Einhard and Nithard, had grown up under the influence of an improved taste, had lived at court, had been engaged in politics, and themselves taken an active part in the scenes which they portray, should write very differently from a monk who had rarely emerged from the walls of his cloister. And, although the form of a chronicle, as being the most usual and convenient, was generally preserved, yet the style in the chronicles of this, and the succeeding period, is much purer, and the descriptions more copious, and in better taste. Alcuin, however, appears to have been least adapted for an historian. His florid, and sometimes bombastic style, would have harmonized as little with the simplicity of historical writing, as his tendency to moralize, and to bend the occurrences of life to suit sonic favourite theory, would have been compatible with the truth, or at least with the accuracy of history. In his hands, historical description would have become a vehicle for moral reflections, as may be perceived by his letters, in which passing events are announced in a declamatory tone, and painted in the most glowing colours for the purpose of exhortation or admonition. A life of Charlemagne, of which no traces now remain, was formerly mentioned amongst Alcuin’s historical writings, in the hope that the work might yet be found. This expectation and hope originated in a note affixed by Einhard to his life of Charlemagne, wherein it is stated, that a more particular account of the actions of Charles might be found in the biographical work of Alcuin. If such a work really existed, its loss could not be sufficiently deplored; for, in a character like that of Charlemagne, everything is important, and it is impossible to learn too many particulars respecting the period, which partly produced, and partly completed, a mighty revolution in the West of Christendom. It seems, however, probable, that Alcuin’s biography of Charles would have been nothing more than a panegyric. If it is at all times difficult to write the history of an eminent personage of our own times, whether it be attempted by an enemy or an admirer, so as to avoid undue censure or applause, it was a task doubly difficult to Alcuin; as he could not yet review the whole of the life of Charles, and was, besides, too closely connected with, and too firmly attached to him, to form a fair and impartial judgment of his character. The supposition appears to have arisen, from confounding it with Einhard’s biographical work; from which passages are cited under Alcuin’s name.
The historical writings of Alcuin, which are still extant, are of a description perfectly analogous to his style and sentiments. They consist of the lives of the saints; consequently of men, who, by their zeal for the propagation of Christianity, or by their sanctity, had acquired great renown, and the privilege of being exhibited as an example to others. In writing their lives, the author's object was not so much to present an historical record of their actions and sentiments, as to display the profitable use to which they applied their talents, so that he might thereby stimulate the piety of the living generation; he looked not merely at that which they had accomplished, but likewise at that which they might yet accomplish. These biographical sketches may be denominated sermons to which the life of the saint serves as a text. A well written life of the founder, or of some celebrated inmate of a monastery, was considered as its greatest ornament; it may, therefore, naturally be supposed that Alcuin, the most accomplished and eminent author of that day, would not fail to procure this desirable possession, for the abbey over which he presided. He revised a Life of St. Martin, which already existed; and, as it was intended to be read on the anniversary of the saint’s death, he added the usual reflections. He was quickly assailed from all quarters with entreaties, that he would confer the same benefit upon other monasteries, as upon his own. At the request of the Abbot Rado, he re-wrote the Life of St. Vedastus, to which he appended an exhortation to imitate the virtues of this saint. Angilbert, abbot of Centula, likewise begged a similar favor. At his desire, Alcuin compiled from an ancient and somewhat barbarous work, the Life of St. Richarius, which he wrote with more taste, and in a style better adapted to the times. Charlemagne was so much interested in it, that he gave the author to understand, he wished it to be written, as if it were destined for himself. Nothing affords a more convincing proof of Alcuin’s literary reputation, than that a man like Angilbert, who certainly possessed considerable skill as an historical writer, should have considered a work of Alcuin’s as the greatest boast of his monastery; and that Charlemagne should have taken so lively an interest in all his compositions, that he looked forward to their appearance with an eagerness which is scarcely equalled, by that with which the public of the present day hail the literary productions of the most fashionable author. Alcuin wrote, for the benefit of Archbishop Beornrad, the life of his countryman and relation, St. Willibrod, not, as in the former case, from an ancient record, but from memory and tradition. He composed it both in a prose and poetical form, designing the former for public reading on the anniversary of the saint, and the latter for the private use of the archbishop.
6.—Concerning Alcuin’s Poetical Writings.
When a language has reached a certain degree of refinement, and has displayed both its aptness for prosaic compositions, and its capacity for embodying the conceptions of poetry, those who have attained only a moderate proficiency therein, easily fall into the error of mistaking a poetic form for poetry. The most common place ideas and the most ordinary sentiments conceal their poverty under the pomp of metre, and parade with measured steps through the regions of poetry; while, in fact, it is only necessary to strip them of their garb, in order to expose the ass under the lion’s skin, and the daw in borrowed plumes. When once the attention is diverted from the sounds which fill the ear, and fixes itself upon the actual meaning of the sentiments contained, we are astonished at their puerility and absurdity. This criticism applies with equal force to the mass of verses with which Germany is inundated at the present day, and to the poetical attempts of the Carolingian period. The elegant language of Rome, offered its classic forms to adorn the most paltry ideas; and all the poets of antiquity, who were known at that time, especially the harmonious Virgil, were plundered to clothe the poetical productions of the eighth century. There is scarcely one writer belonging to that period who does not attempt versification; even the scribes seldom concluded their tasks without annexing to them a few verses. This species of verse-making was accomplished with the greater facility, as accuracy in prosody was then as little attended to, as correctness in rhyming in our day. Alcuin attempted various kinds of poetry, but without avoiding the prevailing faults of the age. It is very rarely, amid the multitude of cold conceits, affected play upon words and high-sounding expressions, devoid of sentiment, that we meet with a passage, which if it does possess intrinsic beauty, is not spoiled by the repulsive form in which it is clothed. They are usually prosaic thoughts, disguised in the garb of poetry; which, unused to the restraint of metre, are expressed with awkwardness, and make a ridiculous or pitiable appearance in a sphere, which is in no way adapted to them.
Alcuin’s poems consist of inscriptions, epitaphs, epistles, riddles, fables, moral and religious reflections, and historical narrations. The measure is generally hexameter, varied occasionally with the pentameter ; some of his verses are sapphics, and some written in rhyme, in a less constrained form. The play upon versification, of which the monkish poetry of later times has furnished a number of examples, is to be found even in his poems. One of the most common, is to conclude the pentameter with the first half of the corresponding hexameter. The analysis of a poem of some length, with the addition of a few specimens, will be sufficient to enable the reader to judge of the poetical efforts of this period. We select the reflections suggested to the poet by the unhappy fate of the monastery of Lindisfarne, which called forth the considerations “Upon the Mutability of all Human Affairs”. The subject is, in itself, fertile, and capable of awaking an infinite variety of ideas. A melancholy disposition would regard this mutability with dismay, and seek refuge from the confusion of the earth, in the eternity and harmony of the spiritual world; whilst, on the other hand, a bolder spirit would discern, in the perpetual change and apparent disorder, an ever creating power, which destroys the forms of today, only to produce on the morrow, a new and fairer creation. Alcuin was incapable of contemplating it in the latter point of view; his consolation and his hope are derived from another world. He commences, therefore, by ascribing all the imperfection of our present condition to the sin of the first man, and dates from this period, the course of fate; which, like an evil spirit, perpetually interposes betwixt us and our fairest hopes and joys.
How transient all that bears created form
Revolving seasons endless changes show;
Fair shines today, tomorrow howls the storm;
One smile of Fortune cannot shield from woe.
Soon do we see our sweetest joys decay,
Blighted by fate, inconstant as the main ;
The gloom of night succeeds the brightest day,
The buds of spring lie strewed on winter's plain.
The starry roof is gemmed with holy light,
Evanishing when rain-fraught vapours roll;
The blaze of noon fades instant from the sight,
When southern storms convulse the trembling pole.
The loftiest rocks most tempt the lightning’s flash,
The highest branches most attract the flame ;
More swift, more frequent, Fate’s o'erwhelming crash
Descends on those most consecrate to Fame'.
To prove the truth of this assertion, the poet hurries the imagination of the reader through the whole circuit of history. The overthrow of powerful empires, the decline of flourishing cities, and the rapid decay of institutions, which the mighty spirits who framed them, supposed they had founded for eternity, are enumerated with the dryness of arithmetical precision, rather than depicted with the vivid colours of poetic imagery. The poet endeavours to escape from the conflagration of cities, temples, castles, and villages, which have buried whole generations under their ruins, and from the endless confusion, consequent upon such horrors, by recurring to some general principle to which he can firmly adhere. This principle he discovers in religion.
WHAT, though I mark vice flourishing on high,
Thy judgments, Lord l I seek not to explore;
Far other life’s reserved beyond the sky,
Where peace resides, and battles cease to roar.
As gold by fire refined, more brightly beams,
So shine the just, by Satan’s arts assailed;
Hence soars the soul, in purer, holier dreams,
To realms of glory, from our vision veiled.
Life appears to him, to be merely a state of probation, which becomes severe in proportion to the ardour of our desire to merit the love of God, but to which the splendour of the reward will likewise be proportioned. Having exhibited the vicissitudes to which both Nature and Art are subject, he proceeds to show that mankind are not exempt from change.
WHO sought the stag, roused by the bugle’s tone,
See, age-oppressed, on slothful couch reclined ;
Who erst in Syrian purple proudly shone,
Now shrinks, in tatters, from the wintry wind.
The lapse of years hath dimmed the eagle glance
Which marked each mote, gay glittering in the sun;
The hand which waved the sword, and poised the lance,
Enfeebled, faintly lifts the bread it won.
The voice which, louder than the trumpet's call,
Was wont of yore, to chase each coward fear,
Hoarse, faltering, inarticulate to all,
Dies, in dull murmurs, on the listening ear.
The poet proceeds, from these considerations to the exhortation, which derives from them additional force, not to fix the heart upon temporal blessings, but to look forward to that infinite reward, and those enduring joys in a future world, which will more than compensate for all the losses and sufferings of this present life. With this he concludes the first part of the poem, to which it only forms the introduction, composed for the purpose of consoling the monks of Lindisfarne, for the outrage which had been practiced against themselves and their monastery. This consolation is offered in a succession of prosaic thoughts, which would have read much better in plain prose.
The longest of Alcuin’s poetical compositions, is an epic poem on The Archbishops and Saints of the Church at Yorks. It is in no degree superior to the ordinary metrical histories of the middle ages; all that Alcuin effected, was to versify the passages relating to York, which he found in Bede’s History of the Anglo-Saxon Church, and to give, in addition, the history of those dignitaries who had filled the archiepiscopal throne subsequently to Bede’s time. As Alcuin’s poetical productions are distinguished by no remarkable peculiarities, many, especially minor poems, have been unjustly imputed to him. Amongst the poems ascribed to him, is one on the meeting of Charlemagne and Pope Leo III, which is too remarkable to leave unnoticed amid those which neither increase nor diminish his fame. This poem is evidently the production of one acquainted with Virgil, and possessing no mean talent for poetry, but is composed in a style much more suited to the ardour of a youthful imagination, than to the sober gravity of a man of Alcuin’s years. A merely superficial knowledge of Alcuin’s mode of writing, and the bent of his mind at this period, is sufficient to convince us, that religious, not secular affairs, would have occupied the most prominent place in any work of his; and that instead of an animated description of a hunting party, we should have had a thanksgiving for the miracle which restored both eyes and tongue to the misused pontiff. The poem, whoever may have been its author, is one of the best of that period, and affords a proof how successful had been the efforts made by Charlemagne to improve the education of the rising generation. This poem refers to an event which was attended by the most important political consequences; and as Alcuin contributed to produce them, we feel it incumbent upon us, after having recorded his literary labours during his superintendence of the abbey of St. Martin, to give some account of the event itself, and of the manner in which Alcuin was instrumental in accomplishing it.
7 .—Renewal of the Roman Empire in the West.
In Alcuin’s system of government, the first plate amongst earthly potentates was accorded to the spiritual; the second, to the secular power; and amongst secular governors, the imperial took precedence of the regal dignity. These opinions, which Alcuin communicated to Charlemagne by writing, and doubtless inculcated still more forcibly by conversation, fell not upon unfruitful soil. They took deep root in the aspiring mind of Charles, and every mortification to which his pride was subjected by his intercourse with the Byzantine emperors in Constantinople, tended to inflame his desire of obtaining the highest secular dignity. The extent of his kingdom rendered it worthy the title of an empire, and with regard to his personal pretensions, Alcuin had already declared that no one could compete in power and wisdom with his royal friend. The desire of individual aggrandizement entertained by Charles, was strengthened by political considerations. Hitherto the French king had been merely the protector of the Roman Church, without claiming any authority over the Pope or the Roman territories. In strict justice, therefore, the Byzantine emperors were still masters of Rome, and the title of Patrician, which Charles bore, was an appellation bestowed upon a class of persons, possessing peculiar political privileges in the Byzantine empire. But this ambiguous and uncertain position could no longer be maintained with safety, now that the Pope had placed himself at the head of the French clergy. A decisive step was necessary, in order to sever Rome and the Papal see forever from the Byzantine empire, and assign the Pope a place in the French system of government. What step could Charles take which would prove more decisive than that of assuming the position of the ancient Imperators, and thus place himself upon a level with the emperors of Eastern Rome? But a semblance of right was necessary, both to the accomplishment of this design, and to secure the public recognition of his title; and as an instance had already occurred, in which the Papal sanction and consecration had pronounced a race to be worthy of the throne, and invested them with a more sacred majesty, from no one could this right be so properly derived as from the Pope, who was regarded in the West as the head of the church, and who, as standing next in authority to the Almighty, was supposed to be best acquainted with the divine counsels. The idea of re-establishing the Western Roman empire, was not, therefore, as has been generally represented, the result of momentary excitement, but the gradual effect of circumstances, which Charles’ ambition only seized upon to realize his wishes. Hadrian I, however, could have no inducement to concur in such a project, even had Charles intimated his wishes to him, a supposition, which, however probable, is not supported by proof; but, on the contrary, it must have been much more to his advantage, beloved as he was by the Romans, to have been as independent of the French as of the Byzantine government. Hadrian died in December, 795. He had been, in every respect, an estimable pontiff, and with the exception of their transient disagreement on the subject of image-worship, had lived with Charlemagne, not merely on peaceable, but on amicable terms. Charles respected his learning and piety, and, from a feeling of personal regard, bestowed upon him those tokens of friendship, which his successors have since, in imitation of his example, rendered the Pope as his due. But whilst the Pope was considered the head of the church, and revered by those who were placed at a distance, as a being of a superior order, he was often made a tool in the hands of the factions, by whom he was immediately surrounded. The tumultuary proceedings unavoidably connected with the nomination of a new chief, in every elective government, also accompanied the election of a Pope, because considerable advantages accrued to a Roman family from having one of its members seated on the Papal throne. Thus was the little bark of St. Peter often tossed by the tempest of passion, and not infrequently on the point of being wrecked. No sooner had Hadrian expired, than Leo III, was raised to the pontificate, with a celerity which excites the suspicion, that his elevation was the work of a faction. To obtain the recognition and protection of the French king, was of supreme importance to the new Pope, who therefore, with a degree of submissiveness which could arise only from his feeling of insecurity, dispatched an embassy to Charles to announce his elevation, and to solicit a continuance of the friendship which had been displayed towards his predecessor. Leo appears to have applied to Alcuin also, as the king’s principal adviser in spiritual matters. Charles conceived that he had no right to interfere in the election of a Pope; he regarded Leo as the lawful successor of St. Peter, and under this impression, composed a congratulatory epistle, which he transmitted to Rome with appropriate presents, by the Abbot Angilbert. In this letter, he professes a desire to maintain with the new pontiff, the amicable relation which had subsisted between himself and Hadrian. “And as I”, writes the king, “was united in the bonds of friendship to your predecessor, so do I desire to renew with you inviolably, this bond of faith and love. Be it my care to defend the holy church against heathens and infidels from without, and to maintain the Catholic faith with in; be it yours, most holy Father, to assist us with your prayers”.
After having secured himself in this quarter, Leo seems to have promoted his own friends, and to have discarded those men who had possessed the highest authority under his predecessor. It was, therefore, natural that they, feeling themselves aggrieved, should unite to oppose him in order to regain, under a pontiff, elected by themselves, the influence which they had lost. Two of Hadrian’s relations, Campulus and Paschalis, placed themselves at the head of the hostile faction, and commenced their proceedings by circulating injurious reports, respecting the character and conduct of the Pope, hoping thereby to excuse the deed of violence which they meditated; for the conspirators aimed at nothing less than the deposition or destruction of Leo. On the 25th of April, 799, a solemn procession was to take place; the Pope rode from his palace to the church, where the people and clergy were assembled, ready to join in the sacred ceremony. On his way thither, he was suddenly seized upon by a party of armed men, and being abandoned by his defenseless followers, the assailants pulled him from his horse, threw him on the ground in the street, and attempted to put out his eyes, and cut out his tongue. But as they could not effectually accomplish their barbarous design, they dragged him into a neighbouring church, where they left him weltering in his blood, in the belief that they had deprived him of sight; and quitted the spot before a party came to his assistance, who conveyed him in safety to Spoleto, and placed him under the protection of the French governor of that place. The story that the Pope miraculously recovered his sight after having been deprived of it by the malice of his enemies, is no modern invention, but was generally believed at the time when it was said to have occurred, and accounted for in various ways, by men of sense. The Pope himself was so firmly persuaded that he was indebted to a miracle for the restoration of the faculty of vision, that he ventured to assert the fact to Charlemagne; indeed, nothing could so effectually justify him, and confound his enemies, as the visible interposition of heaven in favour of the innocent, persecuted and calumniated pontiff. Charles, notwithstanding, had some doubts of the truth of this narration, and asked the opinion of Alcuin. But he was too thoroughly a priest to return any other than an ambiguous and equivocal answer to the enquiry. “Every Christian”, he said, “must rejoice in the divine protection which had been extended to his Holiness, and praise God’s holy name, who had frustrated the designs of the wicked”. From its commencement, Alcuin took the greatest interest in this affair of the Pope. In the outrage which had been committed against Leo, he saw not the individual, but the church which he represented insulted; and therefore urged the king in the strongest, and most impressive terms to fulfil his duty as the defender of the church, and suffer no other object to claim his attention, while the church remained unavenged, and until she was restored to her former splendour. He recommends him to conclude a peace with the Saxons against whom he was, at that time, carrying on a war, and to delay the introduction of tithes amongst that obstinate people, that they might be more accessible to salutary council. The king could not consent to relinquish the campaign which he had determined upon, but he commanded the Duke of Spoleto to cause the Pope to he conveyed to the camp at Paderborn. Here he was received both by Charles and the assembled host with the respect due to the head of the church. But the affair assumed a different aspect when Leo’s enemies, in order to transfer the displeasure of the king from themselves to the Pope, appealed to Charles, and justified their conduct by accusing Leo of various evil practices. They denounced him as guilty of adultery and perjury, and as one who disgraced his high station, and deserved punishment rather than protection. They proposed, therefore, that Leo should quietly resign the holy see, and conceal himself and his shame from the eyes of the world in the privacy of a cloister. These charges could not have been entirely devoid of foundation, or they would have injured, rather than benefited the cause of the accusers. Indeed, it appears, that upon a closer investigation, many circumstances transpired, by no means to the credit of his Holiness. Alcuin, probably on account of his infirm health, did not quit his monastery at Tours, but his intimate friend, Arno, was at court, and with him he maintained a constant correspondence upon this interesting subject. He likewise tendered his advice to the king, both through the medium of Arno, and by letters addressed immediately to his sovereign. Arno, in a letter written to his former instructor, deplores the iniquities of the Pope, which letter Alcuin burnt, to prevent its falling into the hands of any officious person, and thereby become the cause of scandal. This letter could not have contained a report of the accusations brought against Leo by his enemies, for they were universally known, but must have communicated the actual result of a more strict examination. That this examination was not favourable to the pope, is evident from the anxiety with which Alcuin sought to guard against a scandalous exposure. Less interested for the Pope than for the church, Alcuin conceived that the papal dignity was not to suffer from the crimes of which the Pope as a man might be guilty, and that there should be a distinction between the office and the person of the pontiff. His eagerness to gain the king over to his opinions, increased in proportion to his fears that Charles would adopt some measure injurious to the church. He urged Archbishop Arno, who, to a certain extent, may be regarded as his representative at court, to exert his utmost endeavours to prevent any infringement of the rights of the Pope, and any violation of the authority of the holy see, and the purity of the Catholic faith; “that”, as he expresses it, “the shepherd of the flock may not be delivered up a prey to the wolves”. In his apprehension, the future condition of the church depended on the decision of this intricate subject, and she must stand or fall with her lord and heads. That which he most dreaded, and consequently sought most earnestly to prevent, was, that the Pope should be summoned before a tribunal of justice. It must, therefore, have been the intention of Charles to submit the charges alleged against the Pope, and his defence, to a judicial inquiry, and to decide the question according to law. This mode of proceeding, was vehemently opposed by Alcuin. He appealed to the canonical decrees of Pope Sylvester, which ordained, that a Pope could be subjected to trial only on the accusation of seventy-two witnesses, and those witnesses of such well-known and unimpeachable characters, as to give weight to their testimony against so exalted a personage; nay, more, it was doubtful whether the Pope, even in this case, would be compelled to submit to the sentence, for, according to other canonical decrees, the Apostolic see was itself a supreme tribunal, and not amenable to any other. It would have been most agreeable to Alcuin, had the king conducted the Pope back in triumph, as being beyond the power of sin, and severely punished his enemies. How far he relaxed, in reference to the Pope, from the strictness of his moral principles, is evinced by an expression which he uses in one of his letters. “Were I in his place, I would reply, He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at him”. This and much more than this, Alcuin says he had communicated to the king by letter. Were we in possession of the correspondence that passed upon this subject, we should, no doubt, discover that the affair was terminated with the understanding that the Pope should crown the king of France emperor of Rome. That the elevation of Charles was concerted with the Pope at Paderborn, is so manifest, from the circumstances of the case, that we need no additional evidence, but we are not destitute of historical proofs which will hereafter be produced. Charles owed his elevation less to the gratitude of the Pope, or to his foresight of the advantages which would thereby accrue to the holy see, than to the consummate skill with which he availed himself of the critical situation of the Pope, to realize his long-cherished wish of obtaining the power, the title, and the privileges of an emperor. In order to feel convinced, that nothing but the most urgent motives could have induced the Pope to accede to Charles’ demand, it is only necessary to reflect, that the measure which was contemplated, must inevitably alter his position with regard to the French monarch, but whether to his advantage or disadvantage, the future only could determine; whilst, on the other hand, it would infallibly involve him in hostilities with the Byzantine empire, and deprive him of his influence over the Eastern church. The desperate situation of the Pope extorted from him a consent which, under other circumstances, he would certainly have refused. He purchased the protection of the French monarch, and his reinstatement in the holy see, at the price of subjecting the city of Rome to the dominion of Charles, and renouncing for ever all connection with the Byzantine empire. After the conclusion of this treaty between the king and the Pope, which doubtless had not been effected without the influence and interference of Alcuin, Charles dismissed his Holiness, who returned to Rome under a military escort, accompanied by two archbishops, four bishops, and three counts, who were commissioned to reinstate him provisionally in his dignity, and to afford him their protection. The enemies of the Pope were imprisoned, in order to await their sentence from Charles, who intended himself to proceed to Rome.
That the king should undertake a journey to Rome at a time when his presence was urgently required in France, both on account of the war with the Saxons, and the hostile attempts of the Normans, in order to settle an affair which he could have concluded quite as satisfactorily by deputy, cannot but awaken the suspicion that he had some object in view beyond that of reinstating the Pope, and chastising the leaders of a Roman faction. The king made all his arrangements for a longer absence. In the summer of 800, he inspected the coasts of his kingdom, for the purpose of providing against the predatory inroads of the Normans. Whilst on this journey, he paid a visit to Alcuin at Tours. According to the chronicles of that period, the object of this visit of the king was to pay his devotions at the tomb of St. Martin; but we may reasonably conjecture, that it was rather to confer with Alcuin, respecting the important change which was pending, and to which Alcuin himself had greatly contributed. His stay was protracted in consequence of the illness of his wife Luitgarde, who accompanied him. She expired June 6th, and was interred at Tours. The king remained at the monastery of St. Martin, until after the death and interment of his wife. Alcuin sought to console the afflicted mourner for the loss which he had sustained, by addressing to him letters of condolence; but Charles found the most effectual consolation in the constant occupation which his meditated journey into Italy supplied. He travelled through Orleans and Paris to Aix-la-Chapelle, and thence to Metz, where he summoned the general assembly of the empire, to meet in August, and where an expedition across the Alps in the ensuing winter, was determined upon. Charles was accompanied by a retinue of ecclesiastics, to assist him with their advice. Nothing would have been more agreeable to Charles, than to have had Alcuin among the number. He renewed his invitation to him from Metz, begging him to exchange for a time the smoky roofs of Tours for the golden palaces of Rome, but Alcuin excused himself on the plea of illness. The king also desired to have Alcuin’s opinion upon the manner in which the enemies of the pope should be punished. It is evident, that he was convinced of Leo’s guilt, and considered the motives which his adversaries had urged in justification of their violence, so little deserving of chastisement, that he applied to Alcuin for advice, how to extricate himself from the affair with credit. Alcuin’s reply was ambiguous—Charles’ own wisdom could best decide what was due to all parties, and would enable him to establish that pious spiritual shepherd, who had been snatched by the interposition of God from the hands of his enemies, so firmly on his throne, that he would henceforth be able to serve God without molestation.
With regard to the Pope, the king acted entirely in conformity with Alcuin’s views. On arriving at Ancona, he commissioned his son Pepin to lead the army against Beneventum, and himself proceeded with a considerable retinue to Rome, where he arrived on the 24th of November, and was received with extraordinary honours. On the seventh day after his arrival, a convocation of the dignified resident Clergy and chief lay nobility, was held in the church of St. Peter, for the purpose of deciding upon the accusations which had been made against the Pope. In what capacity, and by what right Charles interfered in this examination, has become a matter of factious dispute. Einhard’s report is considered too imperfect, and that of Anastasius too suspicious, to determine with precision the part played by Charlemagne upon this occasion. Each party has therefore given a different representation, according to their peculiar religious or political views. In reality, the whole proceeding appears to have been a mere form, and the report of Anastasius to be correct, since it contains nothing which is in contradiction to Einhard’s account, or which does not coincide with the sentiments of Alcuin, which have already been adduced. The assembled ecclesiastics refused to investigate the charges made against the Pope. “We venture not”, they declared, “to judge the apostolic see which is placed over all the churches of God. We are all subject to its jurisdiction, but it can be judged by none. Whatever the Pope himself judges to be right, in that will we obey him, according to the ordinances of the church”. Upon this, the Pope ascended the pulpit, with the Gospels in his hand, and in an audible voice pronounced an exculpatory oath, protesting at the same time, that he did so not by compulsion, but of his own free will, and mentioning expressly that his example was not binding on his successors in the holy see; as he himself had adopted this mode of proceeding, solely for the purpose of removing unfavourable suspicions from the minds of the assembly. The congregation then sang a hymn in praise of God, the apostles and saints, and separated, convinced that Leo III was a legitimate Pope. The trial of the Pope’s enemies was also a mere formality. For the sake of appearances, they were condemned to death; but on the petition of Leo, the sentence was mitigated, and they were only banished from Rome and Italy.
By the time this investigation was concluded and other affairs arranged, Christmas arrived; and on Christmas day, which at that period was also celebrated as the first day of the year, Charles attended divine service in the church of St. Peter, habited in the dress of a Roman patrician. The king had seated himself opposite to the altar; when the Pope suddenly approached him, and placed upon his head a splendid crown, amidst the joyful salutations of the Roman people, who exclaimed; “Long life and victory to Charles, the divinely crowned Augustus, the peace-bringing emperor of the Romans!” After this salutation, the Pope, according to an ancient usage, worshipped him, by pressing one hand upon his lips, whilst with the other he touched the garment of the object of adoration; and Charles exchanged the title of Patrician, for that of emperor and Augustus. Such is the account given by contemporary writers of this important transaction, which they represent as the result of the excitement of the moment, unconnected with any preconcerted measures. At any rate, there can be no doubt that Charles desired it should be so regarded. He professed to have been taken by surprise, and declared, that had he been aware of the intentions of the Pope, he would not have gone to the church on this solemn festival. It is evident from this expression, which Charles unquestionably used, that he did not wish to appear as the author of the distinction which had been conferred upon him. In this he may have been actuated by two motives : the first suggested by the consideration, whether the French would be satisfied with this elevation of their king, which conferred upon him privileges which might be oppressive to them. Should they be discontented, they might refuse to recognize a political change which originated solely in Charles’ ambition, and withhold their support from an empire as being a form of government alien to their state system. But the affair would assume a different aspect, if Charles were nominated emperor by the pope without his concurrence, and even against his will. The transaction would then appear in the light of a divine ordinance, to which Charles, however unwillingly, must submit; and the nations across the Alps were too much accustomed to revere the decrees of the Pope as the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, not to regard the renewal of the Western Roman empire as an act of the Pope, and therefore of God. This was a sufficient reason to induce Charles to conceal as much as possible his participation in the event. By this means, he also prevented the possibility of the Pope’s attributing his elevation to compulsion, and thus in a great measure deprived the Greeks of an opportunity of stigmatizing him as an usurper. The Pope and the people of Rome would appear in the eyes of the Greeks, as the only culprits who had renounced their allegiance to their lawful sovereign, and elected a new governor. It is worthy of observation, that after Charles returned from Rome, he caused every vassal who had sworn fealty to him as king, to renew his oath to him as emperor. We are not to infer from this circumstance, that Charles conceived himself to have entered into any new relation with his vassals; but only that he was desirous of procuring, by this means, a recognition of his imperial title. For, supposing that his new title had involved him in a war with the Byzantine emperors, his feudal vassals might have refused to aid him, on the plea, that this was a dispute which in no way concerned the French kingdom; and bade him seek soldiers amongst the Romans, of whom he was the emperor. But by exacting this oath, Charles converted the affair into a French national concern, and thus gained the right to demand that the French should protect him, their king and his successors, in the new dignity.
Although Charles had reasons for concealing as much as possible his participation in the renewal of the Western Roman empire, and although he so far succeeded as to induce historians to represent, and posterity to regard, the transaction in the light which he desired; still Alcuin accidentally furnishes an evidence, that both the king and his confidants knew perfectly well what was about to take place in Rome. Alcuin had caused a beautiful and unusually correct copy of the Scriptures to be made, which he entrusted to Fredegis, one of his pupils, in order that he might present it on Christmas Day, with a congratulatory epistle to the king, to whom, as he expresses it, he owed as many thanks and praises, for the benefits conferred by him upon himself and his pupils, as there were syllables in the book; and on whom he hoped God would bestow as many blessings as the writing contained letters. That this was no ordinary Christmas, or New Year’s gift, is evident from the letter addressed to Charles himself, wherein Alcuin expressly says, that he intended it as a congratulatory offering, “to the splendour of his imperial power”. Alcuin knew as well as Charles himself, that he was to be proclaimed and crowned emperor of Rome on Christmas day. A proof no less convincing than that already adduced, is furnished by the fact, that immediately after his coronation, even the very day on which it took place, Charles presented to the Pope, and the church of St. Peter, gifts of such a nature as must have required preparation, as well as the affair itself, for which the new emperor embellished the Roman church with imperial liberality.
When we reflect upon the vast influence which the renewal of the Western Roman empire, has had upon the constitutions of modern Europe, we must regard this transaction as the most important of Charles’ life. It is necessary, therefore, that we should acquire a just conception of the real nature of the imperial dignity at that period. Although Charles believed himself to be emperor in the full sense of the ancient Roman emperors, yet each time that a dignity is revived, after long interruptions, and under different circumstances, it deviates from its original form and object. The office of Dictator, when resumed by Sylla and Caesar, after its long disuse by the Roman republic, was totally different from that which had been exercised by Cincinnatus and other men in former times; it was merely a constitutional name for an usurped and tyrannical autocracy. In like manner, there arose, in the beginning of the ninth century, an imperial power, entirely distinct from that which had been destroyed in the latter part of the fifth century; possessing nothing in common with it but the name. The new imperial dignity, according to the views entertained both by Alcuin and Charlemagne, was the highest secular power on earth; consequently it was not like the regal power, divisible, but could only be represented by one individual. With the exception of the kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons, and the small independent province, situated among the mountains in the north west of Spain, all the nations of Germany were under the dominion of the king of France, who assumed as emperor, no new position with regard to them. But when the French monarchy became again divided into several kingdoms, then the peculiar nature of the imperial dignity manifested itself. It formed the source whence others derived their power; and the center of an ideal unity, which, in reality, had no existence. The emperor, to draw a comparison from the mode of government adopted in the time of the Roman emperors,—the emperor was, in a certain sense, the Augustus, and the kings his Caesars. He was the highest point in the scale of the political powers of the middle ages. If we now consider the relation in which the Pope stood to the emperor, we shall perceive that he was indebted for the advantages which accrued to himself and his successors from the renewal of the empire, less to any arrangement which was immediately made, than to the circumstances which arose from time to time, and of which he skilfully and successfully availed himself. From the mere defender of the church, Charles had become the sovereign of Rome, and consequently the Pope was no more than the first archbishop in his empire. Had the emperor fixed his residence at Rome, the Pope would have occupied a situation at court, precisely similar to that held by the Patriarch of Constantinople at the court of Byzantium. On this account, Charles has been censured for not having made Rome the capital of his empire, but we have only to consider in what relation he stood to the French, in order to retort the charge of want of sagacity upon his accusers. It was to the French that Charles must look for his chief support; and his power over them depended upon an influence which would cease to operate at a distance, and which his presence alone could render effective. In Rome he would have lost this influence, and probably experienced a disappointment similar to that of Otho III who, some years later, dazzled by the idea of restoring the ancient Roman empire in its splendour, abandoned Germany, the centre of his power, in order to fix his residence at Rome. But the repeated treachery of the Romans, and the dislike of his German subjects to this system of government, so thoroughly convinced him of the impracticability of his design, that he would indubitably have renounced it, had he not been snatched away by a premature death.
Charles was restrained, by many weighty considerations, from making a conquered country like Italy the capital of his empire. It is true, that the Popes thereby acquired a greater degree of freedom; but when the imperial dignity was first assumed, it was never supposed, for a moment, that the Pope had the power, either to confer or withhold it. The coronation of Charles, by Leo III procured immediately for his successors no more influence over the imperial crown, than the papal consent to the elevation of Pepin invested them with a control over the French regal authority. During his stay at Rome, Charles caused his eldest son, who bore the same name as himself, to be anointed and crowned as his successor in the empire. But when he had the misfortune of losing this promising prince, as well as his second son Pepin, he nominated, without consulting the Pope, his only remaining son, Louis, his successor in the French monarchy and also in the imperial dignity, and made him place the crown upon his own head. Louis adopted a similar course in nominating his eldest son, Lothaire, emperor ; and he again, on the elevation of his son, Louis II; the popes, however, were sufficiently cunning to seize, upon each occasion, a favourable opportunity to crown these emperors a second time, as though they thereby received, for the first time, a legitimate consecration and authority. But the situation of things was changed, when, upon the death of Louis II. who died without issue, the kings amongst whom the French monarchy was then divided, contested their right to the imperial dignity. A third power was necessary to settle this dispute, and such a power was the Papal, from which, according to historical tradition, the restoration of the imperial dignity had originally proceeded. Hence it came to pass, in the ninth and tenth centuries, when the imperial dignity was claimed by German, French, Burgundian and Italian princes, that the pontifical coronation was considered decisive; and when, from the time of Otho I, the imperial dignity was confined exclusively to the German kings, the principle was already recognized, that the imperial crown could be conferred only by the hands of the Pope, with this indispensable condition, that the emperor must repair to Rome, and receive the crown in the church of St. Peter, or some other principal church in the city, from the Pope himself or his delegate. Thus was formed that relation between the emperor and the Pope, as it existed in the latter part of the middle ages. Each appeared as the highest point of a graduated political scale, and, as it were, shared between them the elements which constitute human nature. As man, from his peculiar constitution, not only appertains to the earth, and clings to its interests, but is, at the same time, capable of higher views, and believes himself to be destined to a future and nobler state of existence; so the emperor and the Pope availed themselves of this double capacity, the former claiming his obedience as a creature of earth, that order might be preserved in secular affairs, the latter assuming a power over his spiritual nature, in order to direct him in the way to heaven, and prepare him for it. In the same degree as the blessedness of an eternal existence surpasses in importance the interests of this life, was the Pope regarded as superior to every secular potentate, especially as the latter could derive their power from God, only through the medium of the former, as the vicegerent of Christ. As the husbandman, from inspecting the seed, can discover the form of the tree, which is hereafter to spring from it, so had Alcuin, whilst the Papal power was yet in its infancy, indicated its future splendour by the position which he had assigned it, and to which he had contributed his mite. In recording the various transactions in which Alcuin was engaged, we could, with the less propriety, omit an event which, in its origin and consequences, tended mainly to establish this peculiar position of the Pope, as there can be no doubt, that he was more deeply implicated in it, than can be proved by historical evidence. As Charles himself chose to conceal, under a specious pretence, his share in a transaction, which, both in itself and its effects, was the most important of his reign, so we have nothing but isolated expressions, and detached incidents, from which we can infer the extent to which his intimate friend and counsellor participated in it.
Alcuin was prevented by bodily infirmity, from being present at the solemn ceremony, which had conferred such a distinction on his royal friend; and therefore awaited the return of Charles with the greater impatience, that he might repeat to him, personally, those congratulations which he had already offered by writing. He extols the happiness of the people to whom God had given so pious and wise a monarch; and, in the example of Charles, beholds a confirmation of the truth of the Platonic sentiment, that it is well for a kingdom, when philosophers, that is the lovers of wisdom, hold the reins of government, or when the king values and seeks that wisdom to which nothing in this world can be compared. He expresses his desire for the king's return, with all the ardour of passion, and in a style indicating rather the enthusiasm and fervour of youth than the prudence and coldness of advanced and decrepit age. He writes thus :—“With a heart filled with anxiety, and an ear which devoured every word that fell from the lips of those who arrived, have I daily waited for some tidings of my lord, and dearest friend, David, to learn when he will return home, when he will come back to his native land. At length the welcome sound of a gathering multitude rung in my longing ear. Soon, soon will he arrive; already has he, whom thou, Alcuin, hast so ardently desired to behold, already has he crossed the Alps!--Many times have I exclaimed with impatient voice : 0 Lord, wherefore hast thou not given unto me the wings of an eagle? Wherefore hast thou not granted unto me to be transported, like the prophet Habakkuk, for one day, or even for a single hour, that I might embrace, and kiss the feet of my dearest friend, that I might behold the brightness of his eyes, and hear a word of affection from his lips, who is dearer and more precious to me than all that is precious in the world beside? Or wherefore, envious fever dost thou hold me captive, at so unseasonable a time and permittest me not to move, even with my usual activity; that I might be able, at least, slowly to accomplish that which cannot happen so speedily as I desire”.
On his return from Italy, Charles again visited Tours; and we may conclude, that his conversation with Alcuin turned upon the new position, in which his elevation had placed him with regard to the Greeks. The supposition that in matters of importance, Charles sought, and frequently pursued the advice of Alcuin, is confirmed by so many circumstances, that we are justified in believing, this conference to have had some reference to the subsequent negotiations with the Greeks; although his letters are silent upon the subject, both because his opinion was given in a personal interview, and because the affair demanded secrecy. The French chroniclers, therefore, in recording this portion of history, as well as in their account of the imperial coronation, content themselves with a bare statement of facts, without entering into the circumstances which produced them. The emperor believed he had merely revived an ancient, not created a new political constitution, and therefore applied to Alcuin, who was well acquainted both with ecclesiastical and secular history, to supply him with the necessary historical information respecting it. The division of the Roman world into two empires, had not originally destroyed its unity. In restoring the Western empire, Charles seemed to have assumed the precise relation to the East, in which the former Western emperors had stood, and it was, therefore, only requisite to obtain the recognition of the Byzantine government. The Empress Irene was at that time sole monarch, having set aside her son Constantine, who, as a descendant of an Iconoclast, was a thorn in the eyes of the monks and the worshippers of images. She was a widow, and Charles’ hand was also at liberty, his wife Luitgarde having died, as has been already related, in the year in which he undertook his journey to Rome, for the purpose of receiving the imperial crown. The amorous disposition of Charles, which his somewhat advanced age had not abated, would not suffer him to remain long without a wife or mistress; and Alcuin, both in a religious and moral view, must have preferred that he should choose the former rather than the latter. Fate itself seemed to have paved the way for a union between the new Western emperor and the empress of the East. The idea of thus restoring the Roman empire in its full extent and splendour, was too alluring to the aspiring mind of Charles not to be grasped. Irene first dispatched an embassy to Charles for the purpose, according to the French annalists, of arranging the complicated interests of the French and Greeks in Istria, Dalmatia, and Lower Italy. In the same year, Charles sent Archbishop Jesse and Count Helingaud to Constantinople. The Greeks aver, that the ambassadors were commissioned to offer the hand of Charles to the empress, in order, by this alliance, to re-unite the West and East under one government; and that she would have accepted the offer, had she not been prevented by the intrigues of her prime minister, the eunuch Aetius. The French ambassadors were consequently eye-witnesses of a revolution, of which Aetius was the author, and to which he had been instigated principally by his dread of losing, through the French alliance, the influence which he possessed. Irene was deposed, and her minister of the finances, Nicephorus, ascended the throne. Thus was frustrated this project, which, in any case, would have been impracticable, and to the formation of which, Alcuin had doubtless lent his aid. It affords an additional evidence, how entirely Charles and his counsellor, misled by historical recollections, mistook the peculiar nature of their situation, and proves the dangers and mischief arising from men of vigorous minds, wishing to shape the course of events according to their own pre-conceived ideas. It was not until the year 811, that the Byzantine emperor condescended to acknowledge Charlemagne as emperor, and to address him as his colleague.
8.—Dissension between Alcuin and Theodulph.
The visit of Charlemagne to Tours, on his return from Rome, was the last which he paid previously to Alcuin’s death; and they appear never to have seen each other after the emperor’s departure. Charles, indeed, frequently desired Alcuin’s presence at his court, but he constantly excused himself, alleging his declining health, and the necessity of preparing to appear, with tranquillity and a good conscience, before the judgment seat of Him who is no respecter of persons, and in whose presence all the fresh honours which Charles could bestow upon him would avail him nothing. In another letter, he declared his resolution never more to quit his retirement, and henceforward to assist the emperor only with his prayers. He, however, maintained an uninterrupted correspondence with him; for he was frequently applied to, both by monasteries and individual ecclesiastics, who desired any favour of the emperor, to present their petition at court, and to exert his powerful intercession in their behalf; in addition to which, he had occasion to write, in reply to questions proposed to him by Charles, and also to offer him his advice, though unsolicited. We have an epistle of the latter description, written shortly before his death, in which he submits to the consideration of the emperor, whether it would not be better to terminate the dispute with the duke of Beneventum in some other way than by having recourse to violence. In offering this advice, Alcuin had no fear of involving himself in foreign affairs, for he considered everything that concerned the emperor or his kingdom, so little foreign to himself, that he thought it his duty to bestow more care upon them than upon his own life. Charles would willingly have pursued this advice respecting a war which cost him more than it was worth, had not the duke of Beneventum himself, encouraged by his alliance with the Eastern empire, rejected every condition which he considered disadvantageous to himself. The war with Beneventum, was therefore continued, until the general peace concluded by Charles with the Byzantine emperor in the year 811.
Although Charles acknowledged, and rewarded the services which Alcuin had rendered to himself and his family, and returned the affection which the instructor entertained for his royal pupil, he was far from feeling a blind partiality towards him. Rendered independent, by the natural vigoro of his understanding of favourites and friends, he hesitated not, whenever their interests came in competition with the claims of justice, to espouse the cause of the latter. An interesting proof of this noble impartiality, is afforded by his conduct respecting the misunderstanding which had arisen between Alcuin and Theodulph; it exemplifies the character, both of Charles and Alcuin, but is much more honourable to the pupil than the master. An ecclesiastic in the diocese of Orleans, who was subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop, had been sentenced by bishop Theodulph to be imprisoned for some misdemeanour. He escaped from confinement, and sought protection in the sanctuary of St. Martin, at Tours. Theodulph succeeded in procuring a warrant from the emperor, to demand the restitution of the fugitive, or, in case of refusal, to take him by force from the asylum. The bishop dispatched a party of armed men to Tours, who, on producing the imperial mandate, were accompanied by the bishop of Tours himself to the monastery. Without any previous explanation with the fraternity or the abbot, they rushed into the church. The monks hastened to defend the sanctity and privileges of their monastery, whilst others excited and exhorted the town’s people, and especially the poor, who lived on the bounty of the monastery, to protect the relics of the saint from the sacrilegious violence of the enemy. The infuriated populace would have torn the emissaries of the bishop in pieces, had not the monks themselves rescued them from their hands, and conveyed them within the building. The whole affair happened without Alcuin’s previous knowledge; but after it had occurred, he did not disapprove it, and undertook, with great zeal, to defend his monastery and the sanctuary of St. Martin. Fearing that the transaction might be represented to the emperor in an unfavourable light, he gave to his pupils, Wizo and Fredegis, who were then residing at court, a simple statement of the facts in writing, for the purpose of enabling them to contradict the exaggerated reports which might reach the ears of the emperor. He also adduced many arguments in justification of the proceeding from the ecclesiastical code, the sacred Scriptures and history. “I beseech you, my dearest sons”, he says in this letter, “throw yourselves at the feet of my lord David, the justest and noblest of emperors, and demand, if the bishop should appear, to debate this matter with him, whether it is proper that a man who has been accused of a fault, should be dragged by force from the sanctuary, to the punishment from which he had escaped? Whether it is just, that he who has appealed to Caesar, should not be brought before Caesar? Whether it is proper, that one who repents of his error, should be deprived of all that he possesses, even of his personal liberty ; and whether the word of the Lord is to be regarded, when he says mercy rejoiceth against judgment. (Jam. ii. 13.) If you submit all this to the consideration of my lord the Christian emperor, whom no advantage can allure from the paths of truth and justice, I know that he will not annul the resolutions and decrees of the holy fathers”. Charles sent Count Teotbert to Tours as his delegate, for the purpose of investigating the affair; but he conducted himself with so much severity, and acted so arbitrarily towards the people who had excited the disturbance, as greatly displeased Alcuin. The fraternity received a mandate to surrender the fugitive ecclesiastic, who had been the cause of the tumult, to his bishop. Alcuin refused to obey, under the pretext that the runaway priest had appealed to the emperor, as the Apostle Paul had done in a similar case, and could, therefore, be judged only by the emperor : he evaded compliance, and wrote to Charles. The emperor now made Alcuin and the whole fraternity or congregation of St. Martin feel his displeasure. “One day earlier”, he writes, “than your letter reached us, we received a communication from Theodulph, in which he complains of the injuries sustained by his people, or rather by himself, and of the contempt shown to our mandate, subscribed with our name, in which we commanded the restitution of the ecclesiastic who had escaped from his prison, and lay concealed in the church of St. Martin. And in issuing this order, we do not conceive, as you do, that we have committed any injustice. We have caused both your letter, and that of Theodulph, to be again read to us; and yours appears much more violent and intemperate than his, and to be destitute of the sweetness of Christian charity. It seems to us to be nothing less than a vindication of the culprit, and an impeachment of the bishop, since it declares, under a specious form of words, that the accused not only may, but ought to be permitted to make an accusation; whereas, it is decreed by the laws, both of God and man, that no criminal can bring a charge against another man. And yet you have taken him under your protection, and persist in harbouring him, under the pretence, that he who has already been publicly accused and condemned by his own people has a right to, and an opportunity of making a complaint on the plea of appealing to the emperor. You lay much stress upon the example of the Apostle Paul, who, when accused by his own nation to the governor of Judea, but before he had been tried, was sent to Caesar to be judged by him. But this example is not applicable to the present instance. For the Apostle Paul was merely accused by the Jews— not tried; and since he had appealed to Caesar, they were compelled to bring him before the emperor. But this iniquitous and notorious priest has not only been accused, but convicted and sentenced to prison; from which prison he has escaped, and in an unlawful manner entered the church, which he should not have dared to approach until he had repented of his sins; but where he continues to live, without having, according to report, abandoned his evil practices. This man has now, as you say, after the example of the Apostle Paul, appealed unto Caesar, but he shall never, like Paul, appear before Caesar; for we command that he shall be delivered up to him before whom he has been accused, and by whom he has been condemned and imprisoned, and from whose imprisonment he has escaped. By him he shall be brought into our presence : he may speak the truth or not. It is derogatory to our authority, that our first order should be countermanded for the sake of such a man as this. But we also wonder greatly, that you alone should have ventured to resist our commands and authority, since both ancient usages and law, have determined that the ordinances of kings must be obeyed, and that no one may presume to despise their commands and decrees. And we cannot sufficiently marvel, that you should listen to the request of a wicked man, rather than to our orders. It is, moreover, plain, that with this man, a disposition to rebellion, and a disregard of Christian charity has been introduced among you. For you, who call yourselves the fraternity of this monastery, and the servants of God, (would to God you served him more worthily!) you yourselves know how often your own conduct has been evil spoken of by many, and not without reason. For sometimes you have represented yourselves to be monks, sometimes canons, and sometimes neither. Anxious for your welfare, and wishing to obliterate the memory of your past misdeeds, we appointed you a skilful teacher and superintendent; we summoned him from a distant land, that he might instruct you by precept and exhortation, and that the example of a pious man might teach you to live holy lives. But, alas! we have been grievously disappointed; the devil has found in you, an instrument to sow discord amongst those whom it least becomes, even amongst the teachers and doctors of the church. You, whose duty it is to correct and reject sinners, incite others to the sins of hatred and anger. But, with God’s help, they will not approve of your evil designs. You, however, who have despised our commands, you monks or canons, by whichever name you call yourselves, know that you are arraigned before our tribunal, which our messenger will announce to you. And should you even attempt, by sending a letter here, to excuse your former resistance, you shall, nevertheless, appear and make due reparation for your past fault”.
Although Charles, in this letter, mentioned Alcuin with indulgence and approbation, and vented his whole displeasure upon the monks, still its general tenor and style must have been mortifying to him. It is certain that he had taken infinite pains in instructing his community, and if we may trust the accounts of others and his own earlier reports to Charlemagne, not without considerable success. The vexation, therefore, of finding all his labours in reforming his monastery, represented as fruitless, must have outweighed the pleasure which he would derive from the personal commendation bestowed by the emperor. He considered Charles, in this affair, as partial, as prejudiced in favour of Theodulph, and as unjust towards himself and the fraternity over which he presided; but in this unpleasant transaction, he acted, not from the dictates of duty and justice, but from the impulse of a petty jealousy. Whilst, in a letter to Charlemagne, he defended the character and conduct of his monks against the calumnies of their enemies, he neglected to obey the imperial mandate, but dismissed the fugitive to one of his friends. He probably exculpated himself on the plea that the culprit had escaped, and contrived that the whole affair should sink into oblivion.
9.—Death of Alcuin.
The event just recorded, occurred in the year 803. The indignation which Alcuin felt at the injustice which he considered himself to have sustained, the vehemence with which he contended for the privileges of his monastery, and his grief at the reproaches of Charles, could not fail to have an injurious effect upon his already enfeebled constitution. He was attacked by an illness which terminated his life on the 19th May, 804. It is always an evidence of the importance of a man in his own day, when extraordinary natural phenomena are related as having been connected with his death, and when the day of his decease is recorded in the public annals. Both is the case with Alcuin. It is said, that on the night in which he died, so bright a light was seen to shine over the church of St. Martin, that it appeared as if the church were in flames. Heaven seemed, as it were, to have opened to receive the departing spirit of the pious man. It was, also, generally reported and believed, that a hermit in Italy had seen, at the same hour, a celestial choir of saints, in the midst of whom, Alcuin, adorned with a splendid garment (Dalmatica), made his triumphant entry into heaven. We cannot, therefore, wonder that multitudes flocked around the inanimate body, in order, that by touching or beholding it, they might be healed of their diseases, and that many went away cured. His soul having been deposited in heaven, his body could be interred with the greater satisfaction. His funeral was performed with the utmost solemnity in the church of St. Martin, and an epitaph written by himself, and engraved on a copper-plate, points out his resting place to posterity.
HERE, gentle traveller! pause awhile to rest,
And note the sounds which issue from the tomb:
A heart like thine once throbbed within this breast,
Then learn from mine, thy destiny, thy doom.
What now thou art, I was—well known to fame.
What now I am, thou soon shalt be.
Decay Hath left no vestige of each futile aim,
Save dust and ashes to the worms a prey.
Then haste to guard thy soul’s eternal weal,
Nor heed the frail integument that dies.
Why purchase realms? Behold, vain man! and feel
The narrow bounds in which wealth, glory, lies.
Why pant to deck thee in the purple robe
Which, low in dust, the hungry worm invades?
That form shall sink, though born to rule the globe,
As, 'neath the foul Simoon, the flower fades.
Some kind return, Oh! gentle reader! deign
To these sad strains. Breathe out, “God rest his soul”
And may this tomb no impious hand profane,
Ere the last trumpet’s peal through heaven shall roll.
Then burst the sepulchre; and spring to light
The mighty judge, his countless myriads hail!
Wisdom’s fond lover, he erst Alcuin hight,
Now craves thy silent prayer, at vespers pale.
Under these verses, the monks inscribed the following words. “Here rest the blessed remains of Abbot Alcuin. He died in peace, fourteen days before the calends of June. All ye, who read this, pray for him, that the Lord may grant him everlasting rest”.
A man who devoted his whole life to religion, and whose conduct was so holy and pious as Alcuin’s, would, of course, enjoy amongst his superstitious cotemporaries, the reputation of working miracles. There are not wanting legends respecting his miraculous powers of foreseeing future events, and, by his blessing, restoring the use of their limbs to the lame, and sight to the blind. He was also called to sustain sundry conflicts with the Evil Spirit, which his biographer records as an especial proof of his sanctity. But posterity has accorded him the nobler praise, of having directed his energies to the diffusion of knowledge, and of having contributed to maintain and encourage the church, in the form in which she alone, at that time, could have been beneficial.