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ONLY a few years before the death of Bede, Alcuin was born, and in Alcuin we have the principal link between the vigorous learning of these islands and that, hardly yet born, of Central Europe. The main facts of the connection are familiar. Alcuin, educated in the traditions of York, left England at about the age of fifty, on a mission to Rome to receive the archiepiscopal pall for Eanbald of York, and in 781 met Charlemagne at Parma and was invited by him to come to his court as soon as his errand should be accomplished. With the exception of one interval spent in England, the rest of Alcuin's life was passed on the Continent. It ended in 804.

Meanwhile England had begun to be the prey of Danish invasion. Exactly when the library of York, which Alcuin describes so glowingly in an often-quoted passage of his poem on the Saints of the Church of York, was destroyed, we do not know; but that this was a time of destruction, that a whole literature in the English vernacular was wiped out, and that the stores of ancient learning, accumulated in the North by Benedict Biscop and in the South by Theodore and Hadrian, were scattered, is certain. Only waifs and strays remain to attest the height which art and learning had attained here, and the value of the treasures that had been imported. The Lindisfarne Gospels and the Ruthwell Cross on the one hand, and the Codex Amiatinus (happily retrieved by its parent country before the catastrophe) on the other, are outstanding examples.

Between the departure of Alcuin for the Emperor’s court and the revival of English letters under Alfred, England, disunited and ravaged, makes no contribution to the cause of learning.

Paul the Deacon

Interest is centred upon that same court of Charlemagne. Here for a time lived Paul the Deacon and Peter of Pisa, both representatives of Italy, where learning, if inert, was not dead. Incomparably the more important figure of the two is that of Paul, chiefly in view of two pieces of work, his abridgment of the Glossary of Pompeius Festus, and his History of the Lombards. Both are precious, not for style, but for the hard facts which they preserve. About half of the glossary of Festus, itself an abridgment of the work of Verrius Flaccus, has survived only in a sadly damaged Naples manuscript : without it, and what Paul has rescued of the remainder, our knowledge of archaic Latin would be far fuller of gaps than it is. His epitome was a mine, too, for later writers, who drew from it strange forms to adorn their pages. In virtue of his other great work, Paul has earned the name of the Father of Italian history. Neither of these books was written at the instance of the Emperor, who employed Paul in educational work and in the compilation of a set of Homilies for use in church.

Paul was something of a verse-writer, and some fables of his are by no means without merit; but both he and Peter were chiefly valued by their patron as teachers of grammar. We have writings of both of them on this subject, a subject touched by almost every one of the great scholars of the period we have been and shall be reviewing; Aldhelm, Bede, Boniface, Alcuin, not to mention a crowd of minor names, Irish and Continental. Especially in the Carolingian age, when serious efforts were afoot to raise the standard of education, were grammatical manuals of frequent occurrence. Their compilers used the works of recent predecessors and of more ancient writers in varying degrees, commonly contributing little of their own, save perhaps the order and arrangement of the material. No detailed review of these writers will be attempted in this chapter; but they deserve mention, and honorable mention, since they ministered to the first needs of a fresh and very numerous generation of scholars.

In leaving Paul the Deacon, it is worthwhile to remark that he expressly disclaims knowledge of Greek (and Hebrew), and to note that Greek does not figure very conspicuously in the works of most of the important scholars in Charlemagne’s own circle, though we can see that it was known to more than one of them. There may have been some few Greek books accessible to them : between 758 and 763 Pope Paul I had sent some to Pepin; “the grammar of Aristotle, of Dionysius the Areopagite; a geometry, an orthography” says the Pope, obscurely enough. But we do not fall on the track of these again.

The knowledge that Charlemagne revived education and learning in his empire is common property. I shall not dwell upon his methods, but rather upon the individual men whom he gathered about him to do the work, and upon the results they achieved. Three have already been mentioned, and I do not think it is insular prejudice which inclines me to regard Alcuin as the central figure.


He was not a great writer: interesting as are his letters and his poems, none of them can be rated high as literature. But as an organizer and administrator, and as a personally attractive man, he stands in the first rank. Socially we can see that he must have been very acceptable; in the common phrase of today, he had a genius for friendship. In promoting the revival of education he had this advantage over his helpers, that alone among them he was possessed of the traditions and methods of a long-established and thriving school.

The mass of writing for which he is responsible is very large. There are Biblical commentaries, not more distinguished for originality than those of Bede : treatises upon the Adoptionist heresy which sprang up in his time in Spain, and upon the Trinity, accounted his best theological work. There is a liturgical corpus, of great importance in the history of worship, of which a Homiliary, a Lectionary, and a Sacramentary are the chief members. Of a revision of the text of the Latin Bible due to him there is a constant tradition which we need not doubt, though we possess no record of the imperial order under which it is said to have been undertaken, and there are few allusions to it in Alcuin’s own writings. Moreover, the task of distinguishing the Alcuinian text from other current types is beset with difficulties. There is also a series of educational manuals: we have those on Grammar, Rhetoric, and Dialectic, and there seem to have been others. They were not popular for long, and were not intrinsically very valuable. Still, they were pioneer work, and as such they doubtless had an influence not to be despised.

As to his own range of reading, apart from the theology which ranked as standard in his time, something must be said. The mass of verse which we have from him sh0ws his knowledge of such authors as Virgil some study of whom may be assumed in the case of everyone with whom we shall be concerned Statius, Lucan, and of the Christian poets Juvencus, PrudentiusAratorSedulius and others who, like Virgil, were read by all who read at all. His list of the writers who were to be found in the library at York is instructive though incomplete (it omits, for example, Isidore); but it contains few names which ceased to be familiar in later centuries. Of theologians, Victorinus and Lactantius, of poets, Alcimus Avitus, of grammarians ProbusFocasEuticius PompeiusCominianus, are those who became comparative rarities in and after the twelfth century. The most learned of Alcuin’s letters are those that relate to astronomy, in which the Emperor was interested. In one of them he asks for a copy of Pliny’s Natural History to help him to answer certain queries, and elsewhere in his correspondence he quotes Vitruvius and alludes to Dares Phrygius as if he knew the Trojan History current under that name. He is also credited with the introduction of a few texts to the Continent the spurious correspondences of Alexander the Great with Dindimus, king of the Brachmani, and of St Paul with Seneca. If not very important, both of these became excessively popular: more so than the Categoriae of Augustine, the transmission of which is also due to Alcuin. His knowledge of Greek is a matter of controversy, but at least he can quote the Psalter and the Epistles to elucidate a point of grammar.

A remark may be permitted here which is applicable to most of the individual cases we shall meet. Those who had learnt the grammar and machinery of the Greek language were not few in number (and I see no reason for excluding Alcuin's name from the list), but when they had learnt it and were in a position to use Greek books, there were no Greek books for them to use. Literally, as we shall see, hardly any beyond a few copies of parts of the Bible Psalter, Gospels, Epistles. In other words, there was very little matter which they did not already possess in a form easier to be used and considered equally authoritative. Hence the study was unpopular; it involved great laboUr, and had little to offer save to those who coveted abstruse learning and took pleasure in the process of acquiring it. For all that, the tradition of the supreme excellence of Greek learning was slow to die; and in every generation some individuals were attracted by it, though the difficulties they had to encounter increased as time went on.

Alcuin’s abbey of St Martin at Tours played a great part in the diffusion of that form of writing, the Carolingian minuscule, which was the vehicle of transmission of the main bulk of the ancient literature. Obscured for a time ousted, indeed by the Gothic scripts of the later Middle Ages, it emerged again at the revival of learning, took perhaps a more refined shape at the hands of the humanists, and became the parent of the common ‘Roman’ type in which these lines will be read. That the introduction of this clear and beautiful script is one of the most remarkable and beneficial of the reforms of Charlemagne’s age, whoever has had to do with Merovingian, Beneventan, or Visigothic hands will readily allow. It would be pleasant if we could point to it as an enduring trace of the influence of Alcuin, as has been commonly done. The trend of expert opinion, however, is against this attribution. The traditions of writing in which Alcuin was brought up were insular, and so good an authority as Traube pronounces that the great Anglo-Saxon scholar had no share in forming the hand of the scriptorium of Tours.

The pupils of Alcuin did not fail to follow his methods and to propagate sound learning to the best of their ability. We shall revert to them and their work. It is now time to leave the great teacher and to notice a few other leading members of the court circle.

Einhard; Theodulf

Einhard, Theodulf, and Angilbert are three figures of great interest. The Vita Karoli of the first may be unhesitatingly named as the best piece of literature which the Carolingian revival produced. As is well known, it follows the lines of an ancient model, Suetonius’s Lives of the Caesars, and especially that of Augustus. A copy of Suetonius, the parent, it seems, of all that we have, was at Fulda : Servatus Lupus of Ferrières writes for a transcript of it in later years. This MS Einhard must have studied closely and wisely; from it he derives the plan and proportions, and the method of narration, in his biography. Succinct, clear, and picturesque, inspired with a sagacious perception of the greatness of its subject, it is a really worthy monument to the Emperor. “Nardulus” is an attractive personality as revealed in this work, and in the letters and poems of his friends. His own letters are rather jejune business-documents for the most part. A mention of Vitruvius is almost the only detail of literary interest; there is evidence, besides, of acquaintance with the letters of Pliny, and, elsewhere, with the Germania of Tacitus. More characteristic than the correspondence is his narrative of the translation or theft of the relics of SS. Marcellinus and Peter, which he procured from Rome for his abbey of Michelstadt. It is the classical instance of these pious conveyances, and an early one in the series. Of the documents which throw light upon Einhard’s personality and his domestic relations, the best are the letters of condolence written to him by Servatus Lupus on the death of his wife. That Einhard took part in the compilation of the very valuable Lorsch annals anonymous, as is the rule with that class of records has been denied, but is affirmed by weighty opinion. His poems, and his lost work on the Saxons, can have no more than a bare mention here.

Theodulf, Spaniard by birth and education, ecclesiastic and statesman, Bishop of Orleans and Abbot of Fleury, stands out as by far the most skilful versifier I think I would say poet of his time. He has an astonishing facility in the elegiac metre. A very large mass of his writing has survived, though the only manuscript of the longer poems has disappeared since Sirmond printed them. If one were asked to single out the most successful piece, perhaps that addressed To Judges has the strongest claim. In this he describes an official journey of inspection which he took with Leidrad (afterwards Archbishop of Lyons) through Gallia Narbonensis. At one place he introduces an incident which is rather characteristic of his manner. Some one who wishes to curry favour with him calls him aside and offers him a piece of plate, evidently of antique workmanship : it is worn with age, and has in the centre a representation of Hercules and Cacus surrounded with others which shew Hercules and the snakes and the Twelve Labours : on the outside are the fight with Nessus and the deaths of Lichas and Hercules, as well as the story of Antaeus. Other suitors proffer Eastern fabrics with beasts woven upon them, and so forth. I call this characteristic, for we find several similar descriptions of works of art in the poems, as, for example, the Seven Liberal Arts depicted on a dish, and a picture, designed by Theodulf himself, of the Earth in the form of a woman suckling a child, and surrounded by many symbolic attributes. These things are interesting in themselves and as affording evidence of the survival of classical traditions and monuments.

Another ingenuity in which he evidently took pleasure, is the introduction of place-names in large numbers. Many distichs are made up of these : here is one enumerating some of the rivers which watered Charlemagne’s dominions :

Rura Mosella Liger Vulturnus Matrona Ledus

Hister Atax Gabarus Olitis Albis Arar .

He does not even shun Bagdad :

                                     Si veniat BagatatAgarenis rebus onusta.

As amusing as any is his poem on the court (xxv), where he tells how Nardus (Einhard), Erkambald, and Osulf might serve (being all of a size, and that not great) as the three legs of a table, and how, when the poem is read aloud, a wretched Scot (possibly Clement the Irishman, the palace schoolmaster) will be in a miserable state of temper and confusion.

Two pieces of his verse, and only two, were at all commonly copied in later centuries : an extract from his Preface to the Bible finds a place in some thirteenth century Vulgates, and a part of his Palm Sunday hymn, ‘Gloria, laus, et honor’, remains in use in the original and in vernacular versions.

What has been said of his facility in the writing of elegiac verse implies his close study of older models, particularly of Ovid. His compatriot Prudentius was also a well-read source. But on the whole his range of classical reading does not comprise unfamiliar names. We do not learn much from him about the preservation of ancient literature.

A word in conclusion as to his work on the revision of the text of the Bible. That he undertook a recension of it is not to be doubted, and it is generally agreed that we have, at Le Puy and at Paris (B.N. Lot. 9380), two copies, more or less faithful, of that recension. That he made it by the help of old Spanish manuscripts is also the prevailing view : it is probable enough that fragments of some of these survive at Orleans, whither they came from his abbey, Fleury. But neither was it a very remarkable piece of work in itself, nor did it exercise upon the history of the text an influence approaching that attributed to the contemporary Alcuinian revision.

Angilbert - Homer, as he was called - influential as he was personally, takes on the whole a secondary place among the writers. If the fragment of an epic poem on Charlemagne and Pope Leo, which contains a celebrated description of the Emperor and his family out hunting, be not his (but it probably is) there is not much to preserve his name as an author. But as Abbot of St Riquier he was zealous in collecting books over 200 of them for his monastery, and, if we may judge by the names of authors whom Mico had at disposal, there was a strong contingent of Latin poets amongst them.

Only a systematic history of literature could undertake to name the minor figures of this or of subsequent periods. It must suffice here to select a few men and books that stand out from a crowd which begins to thicken rapidly.

AgobardRaban Maur

Alcuin, dying in 804, was the first after Paul the Deacon to disappear. Einhard and the rest were considerably younger men, and Einhard lived till 840. Before we take up the direct line of succession to Alcuin, we will devote a few words to one who stood outside the circle that has been engaging our attention, and who was just about coeval with Einhard. This is Agobard, Archbishop of Lyons (769-840). Like Theodulf he was a Spaniard. It is no part of my purpose to trace his career or catalogue his many tracts : three points only shall be noted as germane to the subject of this chapter. First, he was instrumental in preserving, in a manuscript which he gave to a church at Lyons, and which is now at Paris, a very large proportion of the extant works of Tertullian. Next, though he shows no interest in classical learning, it is curious to find that he had some knowledge of Jewish lore. In his fierce attack on the Jews he quotes Rabbinic teaching about the seven heavens, and also some form of the Jewish libel on our Lord which is commonly called the Toledoth Jesu. Lastly, two of his tracts have a bearing on folklore : one of them denounces the current belief in Tempestarii, people who could produce storms at will : the other tells of a mysterious epidemic which had induced people in the district of Uzes to revert to pagan observances. These, two of which are no doubt small matters, are samples of the odds and ends of strange information which may be picked up from the literature of the time. The most influential of the diadochi of Alcuin was perhaps his pupil Magnentius Hrabanus Maurus (Raban) (784-856), Abbot of Fulda for twenty years (822-842) and from 847 Archbishop of Mayence. He was no original genius, but a great channel of learning, which he transmitted through compilations in the form of commentaries and of an encyclopaedia founded on Isidore. The achievement which his contemporaries admired most was his book In Praise of the Holy Cross. This too is closely modelled on an older book, the panegyric on Constantine by Publilius Optatianus Porphyrius. Pages of capital letters in which some are picked out in red, meet the eye, and it is realized that the red letters not only have their proper part in the text, but also form some device or picture, and that they make up some sentiment or verse independently. Such carmina figurata, of terrible ingenuity and infinitesimal value, were popular throughout these centuries.

Raban Maur not only found a precious library at Fulda, but increased it substantially. It can have had few rivals in quality by the time he left it. To Fulda we owe, it appears, the preservation of Suetonius, of Tacitus, of Ammianus Marcellinus, to name three leading examples : it has been shown, too, that Raban had access to Lucretius.

Monastic libraries

The mention of this library affords an occasion for speaking, though in the briefest terms, of the others which competed with it on the Continent : LorschReichenau near Constance, St Gall, Corbie in Picardy, St RiquierFleury on the Loire, Bobbio and Monte Cassino in Italy. These, I imagine, are all indisputably to be placed in the first class. Of them be it remembered that Fulda, Reichenau, St Gall, and Bobbio owe their being to these islands : Boniface, Pirminius, Gallus, Columban were their founders. How much further our list should stretch no two people would agree; but it would be absurd to omit the libraries of Tours, Rheims, St Denis, Mayence, Cologne, Treves, Corvey in Westphalia (daughter of Corbie), Wurzburg, Laon, Liege; or that of Verona, to which the archdeacon Pacificus (d. 846) added more than 200 volumes. Each of these had its importance as school or storehouse, and some, like St Gall, Wurzburg, and Verona, have kept together a surprisingly large proportion of their ancient possessions up to the present day. Not so all those which were first named. The books of Fulda, of which we have a catalogue, made late in the sixteenth century, have very largely disappeared. Lorsch is better represented, in the libraries of the Vatican and elsewhere, Reichenau at CarlsruheCorbie at Paris, Petrograd, and Amiens, Fleury at Rome and Orleans, Bobbio at Rome, Milan, Turin, Vienna and Bamberg. Among them these houses produced a great proportion of the ninth century manuscripts which exist today, and anyone who will be at the pains to examine Chatelain’s Paleographie des Classiques Latins or Sabbadini’s account of the rediscovery of the classics at the Renaissance will realize how much of what we have is due to the scribes who lived between, say, 800 and 950.

There are three Latin authors of the first class, Virgil, Terence, and Livy, of whom the whole or a considerable portion have survived in manuscripts of the classical period. Neglecting fragments, it may be said that the earliest copies of Caesar, Sallust, Lucretius, Juvenal, Persius, both Plinies, Tacitus, Lucan, Suetonius, Martial, the greater part of Cicero, all date from the Carolingian Renaissance. There is, of course, something to be set against this immense debt : what, we ask, has become of the archetypes which the scribes of the ninth century used? It is to be feared that, once transcribed, they were cast aside as old and useless, and few of them allowed to live on even as palimpsests, for vellum was not so scarce as it had been. Still, the fact remains that they were copied, and that in such numbers as attest a vivid and widespread interest in the best literature that was accessible.

Walafrid Strabo

In Walafrid (WalahfridusStraboor Strabus, the pupil of Raban Maur, we have another scholar of the direct Alcuinian succession. His career was not a long one (808-849), but the amount, and in some respects the quality of his work, is remarkable. The Glossa Ordinaria, an abridgment of patristic commentaries on all the books of the Bible, a predecessor of the Synopsis Criticorum of more modern times, was his great monument. In the twelfth century no monastic library of any consideration lacked a set, and even the smallest owned a few of the principal volumes. It is no more than a compilation, from sources which still exist, but it was a source of primary importance to students of the Bible for many years. Walafrid’s poetry is more interesting to us than the gloss. There is a good deal of it, but only two pieces shall be selected for special mention. De imagine Tetrici is notable for its subject (which is the equestrian statue of Theodoric removed from Ravenna to Aix-la-Chapelle by Charlemagne in 801), and also for its form; it is a dialogue between the poet and Scintilla (roughly, his genius), which is succeeded by a remarkable description of the Emperor Louis the Pious and his train. De cultura hortorum is the first of medieval Georgics. Those who have seen it will at least remember the epilogue, addressed to Grimaldus of St Gall, in which Walafrid says: “Think of me when you are sitting in your walled garden under the shade of a peach tree”.

The lines are not ‘great poetry’, but the picture is pleasant.

A group of three writers whose works bear on the preservation of Roman literature shall next be noticed.

The first part of the ninth century (805-862) is covered by the life of Servatus Lupus, Abbot of Ferrières, whose letters, not uncelebrated, are by far the most remarkable of his writings. The frequent requests he makes for books, and especially classical books, have long since attracted attention. From Einhard he borrows Aulus Gellius and the rhetorical works of Cicero; from Altsig of York, Quintilian; from another he tries to get Livy; from the Abbot of Fulda, Suetonius in two small volumes. He owns and has read Caesar; he quotes Horace, and may have had some other Latin lyrics. A line which he cites as Horace’s is not to be found in Horace now.

Mico of St Riquier seems to have compiled his work on prosody about the year 825. It is a collection, arranged alphabetically, of lines from upwards of thirty poets, pagan and Christian, exemplifying the scansion of particular words, the name of the source being written beside each. One could hardly have a more convenient key to the contents of the St Riquier library as regards Latin verse. The list need not be set out in full here, but a few remarks may be made. The Aratea both of Cicero and of Germanicus and the medical poem of Q. Serenus Sammonicus, to which Lucretius may be added, count as rarities. We miss Calpurnius and Nemesianus, who were known to the Carolingian court, and Macer perhaps last mentioned as extant by Ermoldus Nigellus, a notable court-poet. The absence of Catullus, Tibullus and Propertius is not surprising; the first and last evidently did not emerge till a good deal later: Tibullus, however, does occur in an interesting ninth-century list of books written in a grammatical manuscript at Berlin (Santen. 66).

Hadoardus gives another aspect of the picture. We know nothing of him but that he calls himself a presbyter and obviously lived in an establishment most likely monastic where he had a good library at command. He put together a collection of moral, religious and philosophical excerpts which has survived in one manuscript. Its distinguishing feature is that a large part consists of extracts from the philosophical writings of Cicero. Hadoardus had no more of these than we have; the Republic was not known to him. Cicero is useful to him merely as a moralist, and he expunges from his extracts the personal and historical allusions, so that what we thank him for is little more than the evidence he supplies as to the existence in his time of the collected philosophical works in very much their present shape.

Classical knowledge; Spain

It is long since I have made any reference to Spain. The little that can now be said must be confined to the Christian writers: I cannot touch on the great literary and scientific achievements of the conquering Moors. And the Christian writers were not very remarkable. A mass of matter connected with the Adoptionist heresy appeared at the end of the eighth century. The question at issue (recalled by the Filioque clause) : Was the Son of God Son by adoption, as opposed to eternal generation? was affirmed by Felix of Urgel and Elipandus of Toledo and, outside Spain, denied by Alcuin. Within the country Beatus wrote against Elipandus, but he would hardly have been remembered for that alone. He is remembered, however, both by patristic students and by those interested in art, as the compiler of an immense commentary on the Apocalypse from sources which are some of them lost and valuable. Copies of this (to which Jerome on Daniel is almost always added), profusely illustrated, are the chief monuments of Spanish art for the ninth and following centuries. The designs of the pictures were transmitted with almost Chinese fidelity from one scriptorium to another: among them is a map of the world which has a special place of its own in geographical history.

In the middle of the ninth century a pair of Cordovan writers emerge to whom a few words must be devoted: Paulus Albarus, a converted Jew, and Eulogius (Eulogio), Archbishop of Toledo, who died a martyr in 859. The writings of Eulogius are chiefly concerned with the martyrs of his own time, and with polemic against the Prophet; those of Paul include a life of Eulogius and a good deal of indifferent verse. Their main importance is, no doubt, for Spanish history, and they are mentioned here principally in virtue of a passage in the life of Eulogius which bears on general literature. In 848, says Paul, Eulogius brought back from certain monasteries a number of books. Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, Avienus are specially named, and also the epigrams of Adelelmus, who is no other than our English Aldhelm. The fact that Aldhelm was read in Spain in the ninth century is worth noting. We remember how Aldhelm himself at the end of the seventh century read Julian of Toledo and Engenius.

A chapter of history yet unwritten will most likely disclose many unsuspected threads of connexion between Ireland, Britain, and Spain. In the making of it the role of the liturgiologist will be an important one,

John the Scot

We return to Central Europe. A good deal of space in the last chapter was devoted to Greek learning and to Irish culture. Now that we have passed to the middle years of the ninth century, both subjects come before us again. Their representatives are in the first instance Johannes Scottus Erigena and Sedulius Scottus, but these are only the protagonists. There was a crowd of minor personages, some few of whom will claim separate notice. The testimony of the time is that imperial and royal courts and the palaces of the great ecclesiastics were thronged with needy ‘Scotti’, all learned in their various ways, all willing to teach, and all seeking (not always in the most dignified terms) shelter and maintenance. Heiric of Auxerre, writing about 876, represents the influx of Irish scholars as due to the enlightened liberality of Charles the Bald. Ireland, despising the dangers of the sea, is migrating almost en masse with her crowd of philosophers to our shores, and all the most learned doom themselves to voluntary exile to attend the bidding of Solomon the wise. But this was not the sole or even the chief reason. As the rhetoricians of Gaul had been driven into Ireland by one set of invasions, so now the Irish were driven out of it by another, that of the Scandinavian pirates who had already done so much mischief in England. We cannot doubt that lamentable destruction of books took place in Ireland too, but we know little or nothing about established libraries there.

We first hear of John the Scot at the court of Charles the Bald in 845, and his first continental writing was on predestination against Gottschalk (851). Not very long after, in 858-860, he made his first important translation from Greek, of the works called of Dionysius the Areopagite. The copy he used was most likely one which in 827 the Greek Emperor, Michael, had given to the Abbey of St Denis. Hilduin, Abbot of that house, had done his best to establish the identity of the patron of the Abbey with the Areopagite, and the identification was commonly accepted throughout the medieval period.

It is generally agreed that John knew Greek before he left Ireland. This would make it natural to commit to him the task of rendering the very difficult language and matter of Dionysius into Latin. But the contents were such as were certain to attract him. He was a philosopher born, and the blend of Neo-Platonism and Christianity in these writings was exactly suited to his temperament. He performed his work in a way that excited the wonder of a very competent scholar at Rome: for in 860 the translation was sent to Pope Nicholas, and he referred it for an opinion to his librarian Anastasius, who had done much work of the kind. Anastasius marvels how a man from a remote and barbarous land could have attained such mastery of Greek; Irish learning was evidently an unknown thing to him.

In his dedications of his version to the Emperor, and also in a good many of his occasional poems, John ventures upon original Greek verse composition: here he is at his weakest, both as poet and as prosodist; the scansion is surprisingly bad. The Dionysius was followed by the Ambigua of Maximus, also a difficult text to translate and not one of much importance. Most likely no other philosophical text (if we except the Sohitiones of Priscianus Lydus, as to which there is doubt) came into John's hands. He made no other translations, but turned to the composition of his last and greatest work, to which he gave a Greek title. Little copied, for it soon became suspect of pantheism, it is the most original piece of speculative thought which these centuries have to show. Nothing so remarkable probably was put forth until Anselm came. Other works by John to which no precise date has been assigned are his excerpts from Macrobius on the verb, which preserve all we have of a very valuable book, a fragmentary commentary on St John’s Gospel in which he makes use of the Greek text, and commentaries on Martianus Capella and Boethius. We still await a critical edition of the whole of the works of this very marked scholar and thinker. It is unfair to judge of his personality from silence, but the fact remains that there is no written tribute to any but his intellectual gifts.

Sedulius Scottus is found at Liege about 848, and after a lapse of ten years becomes untraceable. In him we have no original thinker, but a writer of some skill, a most industrious compiler and transcriber, and a lover of ancient literature. His book De rectoribus Christianis addressed to Lothar II, interspersed with pieces of verse in many metres (after the fashion of Boethius) and with copious quotations from the Proverbia Graecorum, is his best original composition. There are, too, many fugitive pieces of verse, some addressed to his patrons, one or two to his Irish companions, others descriptive of works of art, for example, a silken pall embroidered with a long series of scenes from the life of St Peter. Under the head of compilations we reckon his collections on St Matthew and on the Pauline Epistles (the former as yet unprinted) and his Commentaries on grammatical works, Priscian, DonatusEutychius. In the last-named, which was very likely written in Ireland, he uses that tract of Macrobius on the verb, of which John has been the chief preserver.

There is also in the library of the hospital of Cues (Cusa) near Treves a manuscript of a commonplace book of his of very remarkable character. It has supplied us with pieces of Cicero’s orations against Piso and for Fonteius which are wanting in our other copies, and of VegetiusPorphyrio, and Lactantius. Partly perhaps because of the many Greek passages in his works, Lactantius was little read or copied between the ninth and the fifteenth century. To Sedulius however these were no deterrent; he collects some of them at the end of a Greek psalter which we have of his transcribing. A remark of Traube’s will be in place here: “I hazard the guess”, he says, “that wherever Greek passages survive in Latin works, they are to be referred to Irish influence”.

The manuscripts transcribed by Sedulius and his circle remain to be noticed. Those which are most confidently ascribed to his hand are the Psalter just mentioned, which is signed by him (it is now in the Arsenal Library at Paris, and was once at St Nicholas's Abbey at Verdun), and a Graeco-Latin copy of the Pauline Epistles at Dresden, of which the Codex Augiensis at Trinity College, Cambridge, is a transcript. There are besides at St Gall a Priscian, perhaps brought from Ireland, and a Gospels in Greek and Latin (known as A), and there is a famous book at Berne (363) containing our oldest copy of Horace’s Odes. In these we find, scribbled on margins, Irish names, and names of others, such as Hartgar of Tongres, Gunther of Cologne, Hilduin, Hincmar, etc., whom we know to have been connected with Sedulius. His own name also occurs not unfrequently.

Of the less distinguished members of the band of Irish scholars, Dunchad or Duncant has been asserted and also denied to be the author of a Comment on Martianus Capella (not printed). Common to this, and to John the Scot’s comment on the same author, is a fragment of the lost Peplus of Theophrastus, which is also copied in a Laon manuscript (444) written by an Irish teacher, Martin of Laon (f 875). This book contains a Graeco-Latin glossary, and, inter alia, Greek verses by Martin himself, no better and no worse than those of John.


Room must be found here for a word about glossaries. They were the indispensable tool of any who aspired to a knowledge of Greek, and were used by others who had no real grasp of the language but desired to be thought Greek scholars. The two chief Graeco-Latin glossaries go by the names of Cyrillus and Philoxenus respectively. The prime authority for the text of Cyrillus is an ancient manuscript in the Harleian collection (5792) which came from the hospital of Cues. We now know that Laon 444, written by Martin, is a copy of it, and this means that in the ninth century it was at or near Laon. It was not, however, written in France, but most likely in Italy : its archetype is conjectured to have been a papyrus book. Philoxenus depends upon a ninth century manuscript at Paris, and this too is referred to the neighbourhood of Laon, or at least to the north of France.

Fergus was another of the Irish circle; he was the writer of part of the St Gall Gospels (A). Yet another, of whom we know little more than the name, was Elias, a connecting link between the Irish and their most distinguished continental pupil, Heine of Auxerre.

Heiric learned what Greek he knew from an Irish teacher or teachers at Laon; he also sat under Lupus of Ferrières, and at his lectures took down excerpts from Valerius Maximus and Suetonius. Elias supplied him with the text of two collections of apophthegms, one current under the name of Caecilius Balbus. A manuscript now at the abbey of Melk in Austria preserves (with autograph notes by Heiric) another set of extracts which is particularly interesting as including some from Petronius. The copy from which these were taken is now divided between the libraries of Berne and Paris. His own works are not epoch-making : commentaries on some of the poets, which supplied material to his pupil Remigius, and a long life of St Germanus of Auxerre in verse. In this he makes considerable parade of his Greek, intercalating into his dedications many words which he got from the works of Dionysius the Areopagite. He makes such experiments in lyric metres as shew him to have been a student of the Odes and Epodes of Horace, and he is credited with being the first of his time to pay much attention to these poems, which were always far less popular than the Satires and Epistles.

Those who have studied the commentaries of Heiric award to them higher praise for real soundness of learning than to those of Remigius. But the name of the latter lived on, and Heiric’s did not. Remigius learnt of Dunchad as well as of Heiric, and taught at Rheims for Archbishop Fulk, and at Paris. He lived on into the tenth century, and, it is said, had Odo of Cluny among his pupils. The tale of his writings is a long one, consisting almost entirely of commentaries upon grammarians, poets, and books of the Bible. A tract on the Mass and a glossary of proper names in the Bible, both ascribed to him, went on being copied down to the end of the Middle Ages. Few of the many Bibles of the thirteenth century are without the Interpretationes Nominum.

This is perhaps the place to mention the mythographers. Two anonymous collections of stories of the ancient gods and heroes, very baldly told, were printed by Mai from Vatican manuscripts of the tenth and eleventh centuries, along with a later one which does not concern us. The second of these mythographers copies a good deal of matter from the first, and has been, not quite certainly, identified with Remigius. The first quotes authors as late as Orosius, and mingles tales from Roman history with his mythology. Neither attained a wide circulation, but they deserve a word in virtue of their attempts to hand on the ancient legends and throw light on the allusions to them in classical literature.

Anastasius the Librarian

By the end of the ninth century, it is probably true to say that the Irish stimulus had worked itself out. Had a steady supply of Greek texts been available, one cannot doubt that men would have been found to make use of them, but, it must be repeated, no new material was coming in. Byzantium despised the West and did not care to enlighten it. The Greek monasteries of Southern Italy seem never to have attracted any attention in the north. The chief scholar at Rome, Anastasius Bibliothecarius, died in 897 and left no successor. Something more needs to be said of what he had accomplished. Nearly all his translations, which are not few, were made at the request of friends or of the Pope. He revised John’s Dionysius and provided it with scholia rendered from Greek. He put into Latin the Acts of two Councils, that of 787 and that in which Photius was deposed and Ignatius restored to the patriarchate. For John the Deacon, who was designing a large Church history, he translated the Chronography of Nicephorus and copied extracts from the chronicles of George the Syncellus and of Theophanes, the three together forming what was known as the Chronographia tripartita, not to be confused with the Historia tripartita that was made for Cassiodorus. It is an imposing list, and there is more than this to his credit.

The excursions made into Greek literature in the tenth century are almost negligible. In the middle of it Leo of Naples produced a version of an Alexander-romance for Duke John of Naples from a manuscript he had brought from Constantinople. It marks a stage in the spread of that most influential romance. Later on we encounter another type of Greek scholar, the man thoroughly familiar with the spoken language, in Liudprand of Cremona, diplomat and historian.

It is not pretended that what has been said here of the study and influence of Greek in these centuries is a complete survey. The gaps will be obvious to experts. The province of liturgy, for instance, has not been touched, and there is much in early tropers and other service books which goes to show that forms were borrowed from the Byzantines. That the litanies of the Saints first appeared in Greek, transmitted from Rome late in the seventh century to England by a Greek-speaking Pope, is a proposition recently maintained by that great scholar Edmund Bishop. Hagiography, again, would easily fill a chapter of its own. We do not yet know all that was done by eastern monks, driven westward by the Iconoclastic troubles, in the way of translation of Acts of Saints, or more generally in the diffusion of their language. Further a small matter, this, perhaps it would be worth while to collect the instances in which western scribes have employed the Greek alphabet for their titles and colophons; it is mainly a piece of harmless parade, but is not wholly insignificant. Irishmen, Bretons, and Spaniards were fondest of the practice, though it is not confined to them. Yet another class of documents in which the use of rare Greek words became a fashion are the charters of the tenth century, especially those made in England.

This love of a bizarre vocabulary, which we have noticed before, crops up again and again almost to the end of our period. About 830 we have the strange poem of Lios Monocus, a Breton, who uses the Hisperica Famina. About 896, Abbo of St Germain appends to his two books of verse on the siege of Paris by the Northmen a third which is nothing but a series of conundrums, unintelligible from the first without a gloss. A hundred years later our English chronicler Fabius Aethelweard puts the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle into a very crabbed Latin with tags of verse and sesquipedal compounds of his own devising.


It is a relief to turn from these oddities to some writings which have an appreciable value as literature. Gottschalk or Godescalcus, monk of Orbais (805-869), fills an enormous space in the dogmatic history of his time. He paid dear enough to Hincmar of Rheims for the errors of his doctrine, and his tragic story has been remembered by many who forget how grim was his view of election and reprobation : Christ did not die to save all men, but only the elect. Only in somewhat recent times have certain lyrics of his been brought to light which make him a more sympathetic character. There is a lightness about them not very common; lightness, not of tone, for they are plaintive, but of touch.

Yet more recently Gottschalk has been accepted as the author of a poem very famous for six or seven centuries after him, the Eclogue of Theodulus. (Theodulus is no more than Gottschalk, God’s slave, turned into Greek.) This Eclogue is a colloquy between Truth (Alithia) and Falsehood (Pseustis) with Reason (Phronesis) for umpire. Falsehood cites a number of incidents from pagan mythology, giving a quatrain to each. Truth caps every one with a contrast from the scriptures. The verdict is a foregone conclusion. In length and subject the poem was admirably fitted to be a school-book, and as a school-book it survived well into the Renaissance period.

In 874 died Hathumoda, first Abbess of GandersheimAgius her friend, a monk of Corvey (?), wrote a long prose life of her, and also a dialogue in elegiac verse between himself and her nuns. Rather exalted language has been used about the beauty of this poem, but its ease and simplicity and truth of feeling do mark it out among the productions of its time. It is not however distinguished for originality of thought or excellence of technique.

Opinion is still unsettled as to whether Agius and a writer known as Poeta Saxo are identical. Agius would not gain greatly were his claim established: the poem is nothing but a versification of prose sources (Annals and Einhard) on the life of Charlemagne.

The community of St Gall, as may be guessed from the frequent mention of it in these pages, has a wonderful record for the preservation of ancient literature. It is scarcely less remarkable for its own literary productions. Two of its writers shall have special notice now.

The first is Notker Balbulus, the Stammerer (840-912). Several other Notkers of St Gall followed him, the most famous of whom was Notker Labeo (d. 1022), translator into German of Boethius and much else. But this first Notker is considerably more important, principally on two grounds. One was the development of a form of church poetry known as the Sequence. The essence of it was this. It had become the fashion to prolong to an exaggerated extent the singing of the word Alleluia where it occurred at the end of antiphons. The melodies of such Alleluias were fixed, but were exceedingly hard to remember. Taking the hint from a Jumieges service-book that had been brought to St Gall, Notker fitted the Alleluias with words appropriate to the Church season or feast, putting as a rule a syllable to each note of the long wandering melody. Thus there grew up a new form of poem, non-metrical at the outset, which in later years became bound by stricter rules, and which exercised a great influence upon secular poetry. In Notker’s hands it was wholly conditioned by the tune to which it was set. The one example of it that is widely known in this country is the funeral sequence, Media in vita, ‘In the midst of life’, whether that is truly Notker’s work or not. He is also famous as the author of the book of reminiscences of Charlemagne called Gesta Karoli and long current simply as the work of the ‘Monk of St Gall’. It is now recognised as Notker’s. Alas! we possess only a part of it, but what we have is one of the few books of the period which can really be read with pleasure. There is not much plan in it; it is in the main Notke’s recollections of stories told to him in his youth by an old warrior Adalbert who had fought for the Emperor, and by Adalbert’s son Werinbert, a cleric, and also by a third informant whose name has been lost with the preface and the third book of the Gesta. It was written down at the request of Charles the Fat, who when staying at St Gall in 883 had been greatly delighted with Notker’s tales of his great-grandfather and his father. Almost all the picturesque anecdotes that we have of Charlemagne come from this book; tales of war and peace, of embassies from the East and what they brought, of the Emperor’s dealings with his clergy, behaviour in church, dress, are to be found here, many doubtless true, others showing the beginning of a Charlemagne mythology. The loss of the third book is particularly exasperating, for in it were promised recollections of the heroes every-day conversation.

Much more might be said of Notker, of his letters, his poems, his humor, his treatise on the study of the Fathers (a parallel to the Institutions of Cassiodorus), but proportion must be observed, and we must bid farewell to a man both gifted and amiable.

EkkehardGesta Berengarii

Our second St Gall author is Ekkehard, the first of five persons of that name who are prominent in the Abbey’s annals. He died in 973. Early in life he began the work by which he has deserved to be remembered, the short epic of Waltharius. It is a heroic tale, a single episode in a warrior’s career. Waltharius escapes with his love from the Hungarian court in which both he and she were kept as hostages, is pursued and successfully defends himself against great odds. The story ends happily, and none of the Latin poems of all this age is better worth reading. There is little of the flavor of a school exercise about it, and there is a great deal of the freshness of the best romances in the vernacular.

With the exception of the Gesta Karoli, most of the writings we have touched upon recently have been in verse. We will give a few paragraphs to some of the remaining poets. John the Deacon, a Roman, writing in 875, gives us a curious versification of a curious old piece called the Caena Cypriani, and mingles it with personal satire. The whole thing is a jeu d’esprit , written, as Lapotre has shown, on the occasion of the coronation of Charles the Bald at Rome, and was recited at a banquet where were present various notabilities (Anastasius the Librarian among them) who are smartly hit off.

Hucbald of St Amand’s Eclogue in praise of baldness, produced about 885, must be passed with averted eye. Every word of its 146 lines begins with the letter C.

The early part of the tenth century gives us two anonymous books of some slight celebrity, the Gesta Berengarii, a panegyric on that Emperor by an Italian who knew some Greek, and the Ecbasis captivi by a monk of Toul, “the oldest beast-epic of the Middle Ages”. Animals are the actors, and tales in which they figure are woven together not without spirit. But more famous in respect of the sex of the writer and of the vehicle she has employed are the works of Hrotsvitha, a nun of Gandersheim who wrote about 960. They are collected into three books whereof the first consists of poems on the lives of the Virgin and certain other saints (the grotesque legend of Gengulphus of Toul is among them), the second of six so-called comedies, the third of a short epic on Otto I : another, on the origins of Gandersheim, is preserved separately. The comedies are the unusual feature. They are written in no strict metre but in a rhythmical prose, and treat of episodes from saints’ lives. They are avowedly intended to extol chastity, as a counterblast to the mischievous writings of Terence. We have here the earliest of Christian dramas (dramatic only in form, for Hrotsvitha would never have sanctioned the acting of them) and as such they would in any case be interesting; but they are not without merit. Short and easily read, their plots are not ill-chosen, and the dialogue moves quickly. There is even a touch of humour here and there, as when, in Dulcitius, the Roman persecutor makes love to the pots and pans in the kitchen, under the illusion of their being Christian girls, and gets covered with soot.

HrotsvithaLibri Carolini

In one or two cases the sources employed are interesting. The first poem of the first book deals with the life of the Virgin and the Infancy of Christ, and is drawn from an apocryphal Gospel, in a text usually fathered upon Matthew, but here upon James the Lord’s brother. The second, on the Ascension, is from an unidentified Greek text translated by a bishop John. One of the plays is an episode from the Acts of St John the Evangelist.

It must be said once again that this chapter is not a text-book or a history, but a survey, of the literature of two centuries. So far it has been mainly occupied with what by a stretch of language might be called belles lettres : but these form only a small fraction of the whole bulk of writings which have come to us from the years 800 to 1000. To leave the rest unglanced at would be outrageous. Five headings seem to comprise the greatest part of what it is really essential to notice : Theology, Hagiography leading over to History, the Sciences and Arts, and books in vernacular languages.

In the enormous department of Theology we find two great categories, Commentaries on the Scriptures and controversial writings. Liturgy and Homiletics we must leave untouched. From the commentators we have a huge bulk of material, but with very few exceptions, it is wholly unoriginal. Like Bede, these men compiled from earlier authors. The Glossa Ordinaria, already noticed, is typical. Angelomus of LuxeuilHaymo of HalberstadtRaban Maur, are compilers of this class. For anything like originality we must look to John the Scot and to Christianus ‘Druthmarus’ of Stavelot, who wrote (in 865) on St Matthew’s Gospel : but even he is distinguished rather by good sense than by brilliancy.

Radbert and Ratramn; Hagiography

Five principal controversies occupied the minds and pens of the church writers. At the beginning of our period we have two: the Adoptionist, in which Elipandus and Alcuin were the foremost figures, and the Iconoclastic. The latter produced a remarkable group of books. The Iconoclastic cause met much opposition, but also some support, in the West. The Libri Carolini against images, written at the Emperor's order (whether or no Alcuin had a hand in them is not settled), are the work of a well-read man who draws interesting illustrations from pagan mythology and contemporary works of art. Claudius, Bishop of Turin, was also a hot Iconoclast in deed and in word. We have only extracts from the treatise he wrote, but we have replies to it from an Irishman, Dungal, and from Jonas of Orleans. Dungal, who quotes the Christian poets very largely, especially Paulinus of Nola, prefixes to his books some fragments from Claudius, and says that the whole work was one-third as long again as the Psalter : he seems to think that this aggravates the offence.

The middle of the ninth century saw two more great disputes. One is that on Predestination, in which the monk Gottschalk, who took the most rigid view, was forcibly silenced, scourged, and imprisoned by Hincmar of Rheims, and written against by John the Scot and Paschasius Radbert of Corbie, to name only two of a large group. Radbert was a man of very wide reading and had one of the best libraries of the time at his command. He is one of the very few who quote Irenaeus Against Heresies. The other dispute concerned the Eucharist. Radbert is here again to the fore, in defence of the view which, developed, is the faith of Rome. Ratramn, also of Corbie, wrote in a strain which made the Reformers of the sixteenth century claim him as an early champion on their side.

We have other interesting matter from Ratramn’s pen; a treatise against the errors of the Greeks, and a letter to one Rimbert, who had inquired what was the proper view to take of the race of Cynocephali, tribes of dog-headed men believed to inhabit parts of Africa. St Christopher, it is not generally realized, was of this race, and the conversion of one of them is also related in the eastern Acts of SS. Andrew and Bartholomew. Ratramn, who does not cite these examples, answers Rimbert with good sense. If what is reported of the Cynocephali is borne out by facts, they must be looked upon as reasonable and redeemable beings.

The controversy with the Greeks is the fifth and last of these to be mentioned here. Besides Ratramn’s book, there is an important contribution to it by Aeneas of Paris.

To Hagiography the Carolingian Renaissance gave an immense stimulus. The founding of a multitude of abbeys and the building of great churches and the stocking of them with relics of ancient martyrs, begged, bought or stolen from Rome, were operative causes. Einhard’s story of the translation of SS. Marcellinus and Peter is one classic to which relic-hunting gave birth, Rudolf of Fulda’s about St Alexander is another, this last because passages from the Germania of Tacitus are embodied in it. There was, besides, the natural wish to possess a readable life of many a patron saint whose doings had been forgotten or else were only chronicled in barbarous Latin of the seventh century. Lives invented or rewritten in response to this wish bulk very large in the Acta Sanctorum. Not unimportant are the versified Passions and Lives which perhaps begin with Prudentius and Paulinus of Nola and are carried on by Fortunatus (St Martin), Bede (St Cuthbert), Heiric (St Germanus), Notker (St Gall) and a whole host of anonymi. All these, fiction or fact, have their interest, but are of course much inferior to the rare contemporary biographies such as those of St Boniface by Willibrord and of St Anschar by Rimbert.

The mention of these leads naturally to the single biographies of uncanonised persons. Charlemagne, we have seen, is the subject of the two best. Those of Louis the Pious by the ‘Astronomus’ and by Thegan have nothing of the charm and skill of Einhard and Notker. Nearest to them is a British writing, the first to be mentioned after a long interval of silence, Asserts life of Alfred.

Of others, that of Eigil by Candidus, a Fulda production of about 840, and that of John of Gorze by Abbot John of Metz have distinct interest. Agnellus’s collections on the Archbishops of Ravenna, full of archaeological lore (839), and some of the lives of Popes in the Liber Pontificalis, perhaps due to the pen of Anastasius the Librarian, supply us with many facts we are glad to have, but do not pretend to be artistic biographies.

History writing takes three other principal forms. There is the world-chronicle, of which Freculphus of Lisieux and Regino of Prüm (near Trèves) and, later, Marianus Scotus, give examples; there are the annals, commonly connected with a religious establishment, such as those of Lorsch; and there is the episodic, telling of some particular campaign or the rise of some great church. To this last class belongs Nithardus (d. 844), natural son of Angilbert by Charlemagne’s daughter Bertha, and successor (ultimately) to his father as lay-abbot of St Riquier. He writes four short books in clear and simple prose, on Louis the Pious and the quarrels of Lothar, Charles the Bald, and Louis the German a strictly contemporary record. Incidentally he has preserved, by transcribing the terms of the Oath of Strasbourg, the oldest piece of French and one of the oldest pieces of German which we have. The church of Rheims had two historians. Flodoard (also author of some immense poems) begins in the mists of antiquity and carries the story down to about 966. Richer, whose book is extant (at Bamberg) in the author’s autograph, dedicates his history to Gerbert ; he devotes small space to early history and much to his own time : his narrative ends in 995. Widukind of Corvey is another name that cannot be passed over : his Gesta Saxonum in four books run to the year 973, but by the 16th chapter of the first book he has reached 880, so that his also must rank as a history of his own time. Of all these chroniclers and observers Liudprand of Cremona is by far the smartest. His spiteful pictures of the Byzantine court are not easily to be paralleled : he has a real turn for satire and for vivid description, and the gaps in his text are very much to be deplored.

Geography and science

Of those who treat of the Arts and Sciences the grammarians are probably the most numerous. I have renounced the idea of noticing each Irishman or Frank who has left us an Ars, but I would find a place here for mention of two Epistles, separated in time by a full century, which are largely grammatical in subject and epistolary only in form. They serve mainly as displays of their authors’ reading. One is by Ermenrich of Ellwangen to Grimald of St Gall (854), the other by Gunzo of Novara to the monks of Reichenau (965) à propos of a monk of St Gall who had rashly criticised his Latin. They are tedious compositions, but have their importance.

The writers on Geography are few. Dicuil, an Irishman (825), draws largely upon ancient sources, but adds something about Iceland and the Faroe Islands that depends upon the observations of compatriots who had been there. The famous voyages of Ohthere and Wulfstan, inserted by Alfred into his Orosius, though they are in the vernacular, must find mention under this head. Other quasi-geographers are the translators of Alexander’s letter to Aristotle, and other matter on the Marvels of the East. They probably fall within our period, but the best copies we have of them Anglo-Saxon versions illustrated with pictures may be of the eleventh century.

Medicine meant chiefly materia medica, collections of recipes, and spells. The Latin version of Dioscorides, and the recipes and charms current under the names of Apuleius and Sextus Placidus, were prime authorities. Little new work was produced.

No idea of the progress made in Music can be given, but by a specialist : it must suffice here to name NotkerHoger, and Hucbald of St Amand as the leading exponents.

Gerbert (Sylvester II)

Astronomy and Mathematics remain. Both were ancillary to church purposes, the settling of the Calendar and especially the determination of Easter. Bede’s were the text-books which were perhaps found most useful generally, and that of Helperic of Auxerre (c. 850) had a wide circulation. But we may neglect every name that appears in connexion with Mathematics in favour of that of Gerbert of Aurillac, who died as Pope Sylvester II in 1003. He is the last really outstanding figure. Everything that he wrote and did has distinction, and he demands a somewhat extended notice. Born at Aurillac (Cantal) he spent the years 967-970 in Spain with Hatto, Archbishop of Vich. From 970 to 972 he was with the Emperor: for the next ten years (972-982) he was master of the cathedral school at Rheims, and Richer devotes many pages to telling us what he taught there. In 982 he was made Abbot of Bobbio, the literary treasures of which were no doubt a great attraction to him : in 991 he became Archbishop of Rheims, in 998 of Ravenna. In the following year he passed to the Chair of Peter. His political activities, which were great, we will pass over, and deal only with his literary interests, as they are revealed in his letters and in other sources. The letters most instructive from this point of view are mostly written from Bobbio. To Archbishop Adalbero of Rheims he says (Ep. 8), “Procure me the history of Julius Caesar from Adso, Abbot of Montièrender, to be copied, if you want me to furnish you with what I have, viz. the eight books of Boethius on Astrology and some splendid geometrical diagrams”. To Abbot Gisalbert (Ep. 9): “The philosopher Demosthenes wrote a book on the diseases and treatment of the eyes, called Ophthalmicus. I want the beginning of it, if you have it, and also the end of Cicero pro rege Deiotaro”. Rainard, a monk, is asked for M. Manlius De astrologia (who is thought by Havet not to be the poet Manilius, but Boethius) and for some other books. Stephen, a Roman deacon, is to send Suetonius and Symmachus. “The art of persuasive oratory (Ep. 44) is of the greatest practical utility. With a view to it I am hard at work collecting a library, and have spent very large sums at Rome and in other parts of Italy, and in Germany and the Belgian country, on scribes and on copies of books”. To a monk of Treves (Ep. 134): “I am too busy to send you the sphere you ask for: your best chance of getting it is to send me a good copy of the Achilleis of Statius”." The monk sent the poem, but the sphere was again withheld. Such extracts show the catholicity of Gerbert’s tastes. Richer tells the same tale; he runs through the Seven Liberal Arts, and shows what methods and books Gerbert used in teaching each of them. In Mathematics his chief innovation seems to have been the revival of the use of the abacus for calculations, and the employment, in connection with it, of an early form of the ‘Arabic’ (really Indian) numerals from 1 to 9, without the zero. He also wrote on mathematical subjects, though, perhaps, no signal discovery stands to his credit. Besides all this he was a practical workman. William of Malmesbury describes in rather vague terms an organ made by him which was to all appearance actuated by steam. To the same excellent author and to Walter Map we owe all the best of the many legends that have gathered about Gerbert; of the treasure he found at Rome, guided to it by the statue whose forehead was inscribed “Strike here”, of the fairy whom he met in the forest near Rheims, and of his death. He, like Henry IV of England, was not to die but in Jerusalem. His Jerusalem was the basilica of Sta Croce in Gerusalemme at Rome. It may be worthwhile to end this sketch of him with a correction. We are commonly told that the sixth or seventh century uncial manuscript of the Scriptores Gromatici, the Roman writers on land-measurement, which is now at Wolfenbüttel, and is known as the Codex Arcerianus, was Gerbert’s. This is denied by his latest editor, Boubnov, though he allows that the book was at Bobbio in the tenth century.

Books in vernacular

Our last topic is that of books in vernacular. For practical purposes this unscientific expression means the Celtic and Teutonic families of speech; our period has nothing to show for the Romance languages. Most of what it seemed needful to say about Celtic literature in connection with learning has found a place in the chapter preceding this. It must be borne in mind that the evolution of fresh native literatures independent of learning transmitted by books is foreign to our subject; the fact that the really native product is in itself the best worth reading is irrelevant here. Famous poems such as the Tain Bo Cuailnge and Beowulf, and the Dream of the Rood, therefore have to be passed over, and such parts of the old Northern corpus of poetry as critics allow to be anterior to the year 1000.

Infinitely the largest place in these two centuries is occupied by the Anglo-Saxon writings. A certain number of poems assigned to the latter part of the eighth century are on themes derived from books. The Andreas of the Vercelli manuscript is from a text which is only forthcoming in scanty fragments of Latin, though we have it in Greek : there was also once a poem on the adventures of St Thomas in India, but it has disappeared; it was too fabulous for Aelfric to use as the basis of his Homily on the Apostle. Other Acts of Saints are drawn upon in the poems called Elene and Juliana. We have not the original that lies behind the Dialogue of Salomon and Saturn, but there was one, presumably in Latin, and a strange book it must have been. The Phoenix is in part at least a rendering of a poem attributed to Lactantius. One of the Genesis-poems that which is called Genesis B, and has been said to be anglicised from Old Saxon is held to be under obligations to the poems of Alcimus Avitus. The ninth century Homilies of the Vercelli and Blickling manuscripts, as has been said, present versions of and allusions to the Apocalypse of Thomas. The source oftenest employed for sermons is not unnaturally the homily-book of Gregory the Great, to whom Christian England owed so much.

The end of the same century sees King Alfred’s work : he puts into the hands of his clergy and people Gregory, Orosius, Bede, and Boethius, and infuses into Orosius and Boethius something of his own great spirit. He did not seek to make his people or his priests erudite, but to fit them for the common duties of their lives : we find little curious learning in what he wrote or ordered to be written. And in the work of Aelfric, nearly a hundred years later, I seem to see an equally sober and practical, yet not prosaic, mind. His sermons, whether he is paraphrasing Gregory on the Sunday Gospels, or is telling the story of a saint from his Acts, appear to be exactly fitted to their purpose of leading simple men in the right way : skill in narrative, beauty of thought, goodness of soul, are there. Whatever Aelfric it was who composed the Colloquy for schoolboys, he, too, was gifted with sympathy and freshness. It gives some pictures of ordinary life and manners which have long been popular, and with good reason.

Of some books and fragments which concern matters not theological, it is hard to say whether they fall just within or just outside our period. Such are the medical receipts, the leechdoms and the descriptions of Eastern marvels already alluded to ; such too the dream-books, the weather prognostics, the version of the story of Apollonius of TyreByrhtferth of Ramsey, almost the only author of this class whose name has survived, wrote partly in Latin and partly in the vernacular upon ‘computus’, Calendarial science, shortly before the year 1000, when he anticipates the loosing of Satan.

There was a time when it would have been proper to say that important remains of Welsh poetry far older than AD 1000 were in existence. That time is past, and it is recognised that the poems of Taliesin and the rest are not of the first age. Glosses and small fragments of verse are the oldest things we have in Welsh. Ireland has more, but of the documents so far as they have not been noticed already which bear on learning, a great many can only be dated by the linguistic experts, and unanimity is no more the rule among the scholars than among the politicians of the Celts.

There are, it has been said, Irish versions of the Aethiopica of Heliodorus, of the Thebaid of Statius and of the Odyssey. To the first no date is assigned; it is not in print, and for all one can tell it may have been made from a printed edition : the second appears to be a medieval abstract in prose : the only published text that represents the third is a short prose tale. It has some traits (as of the dog of Odysseus recognising him) which are not derivable from Latin sources, and read like distorted recollections of the Greek; but the main course of the story is wholly un-Homeric. Nor is it claimed as falling within our period. I cite this as a specimen of exaggerations that are current. They are wholly uncalled for. Nobody doubts the reality of the ancient learning of Ireland. It is safe to predict that sober and critical research will not lessen but increase our sense of the debt which the modern world owes, first to Ireland and after her to Britain, as the preservers and transmitters of the wisdom of old time.

I end this chapter, as I began it, with these islands; and as I write, just such a storm hangs over them as that which, breaking, drove Alcuin from their shores eleven centuries ago; and just such destruction is being wrought in the old homes of learning, Corbie, and St Hiquier, Laon and Rheims, as the Vikings wrought then. But the destroyers of today are no Vikings. They are, and the more is the pity, men of a race which has done a vast deal for learning; that has brought to light things new and old. They are undoing their own work now : they have robbed the world of beauties and delights that never can be given back. It will be long before any of the nations can forgive Germany; longer still, I earnestly hope, before she can forgive herself.