Imágenes de página



in my stomach, became violently ill, and almost died -Thou sawest, my God (for Thou wert already my Keeper), with what earnestness and faith I begged of my loving mother and of Thy Church, which is the mother of us all, that I might receive the Baptism of Thy Christ my God and Lord. And the mother of my flesh, being much disturbed-since with a heart, pure in faith, she more lovingly travailed in birth of my eternal salvation - would with all speed have provided for my Baptism and cleansing by the sacraments of salvation, confessing Thee, O Lord Jesus, for the remission of sins, had I not suddenly recovered. Therefore my cleansing was put off, because should I live, I should inevitably get defiled again; and sin after Baptism is of a deeper dye, and fraught with greater danger to the soul than sin before it. I then already believed; and so did my mother, and all the household except my father; yet my mother's piety had a stronger influence over me than his unbelief, so that I believed in Christ, in spite of him. For it was her one longing that Thou, my God, shouldest be a father unto me, rather than he ; and in this Thou didst help her to prevail over her husband, whom she obeyed, though she was better than he, as in thus fulfilling Thy command she also obeyed Thee.

I ask Thee, my God, I should like to know it if I may, why my Baptism was then put off? Was it for my good that the reins of sinning were, as it were, held loosely? or were they not held loosely? Or if not, why is it such a common saying on all sides, "Let him alone, let him do it, for he is not yet baptized"? And yet we do not say the same as to bodily health. "Let him alone, let him get worse, for he is not yet




cured." How much better, then, it would have been for me, had I been cured at once, and then by my own care, and that of my friends, the health of my soul, once restored, had been preserved safely in His keeping Who gave it? Better indeed! But how many and how great waves of temptation seem to hang over my childhood, my mother knew well; and she preferred that the clay of which I should be afterwards moulded, should be exposed to them, rather than endanger the image itself.


He was forced to go on with his Studies, which, however, God turned to his Profit.


my childhood, however,—a time of far less danger than that of youth,—I had no love for study, and hated to be forced to it; and yet I was forced to it, and it was well for me that I was, though I did not profit much, but had I not been forced, I should not have learned at all. But no one does anything well if he does it unwillingly, even though it be a good work in itself. Yet neither did they do well who urged me, but good came to me from Thee, my God. For they did not care to what account I turned what they pressed me to learn, save that it might satisfy the insatiable cravings of a wealthy poverty and an ignominious glory. But Thou, by Whom the hairs of our head are numbered,' didst make the error of all those who urged me to learn, to minister to my good; and my own error, in that I would not learn, Thou didst use for my punish

I Matt. x. 30.

IMPORTANCE OF first lessons


ment—a punishment which I, so small a boy and yet so great a sinner, justly deserved. So Thou didst make instruments of my good, those who did not do good themselves; and my own fault, rightly brought back punishment upon myself. For Thou hast ordered it, and so it comes to pass, that every inordinate affection should be to itself its own punishment.


In what Studies he chiefly delighted.

BUT why I hated the Greek language, which I as

a boy studied, I do not even now know. For I loved Latin, not what I was first taught, but what I learned from those who are styled grammarians. For those first lessons in reading, writing, and arithmetic, were as troublesome and irksome to me as all my Greek. But from what did this also arise, but from the sin and vanity of this life, because "I was flesh, and a breath that passeth away and cometh not again." For those first lessons were better, indeed, because more certain; for by them I acquired, and still possess the ability to read whatever comes in my way, and to write whatever I wish; whereas afterwards I was forced to remember the wanderings of a certain Æneas, forgetful of my own, and to weep at the death of Dido, because she killed herself for love, whilst all the while I, wretched one, with dry eyes, endured myself dying amongst these things, far from Thee, O God, my Life.

For what could be more miserable than for me, a I Ps. lxxviii. 39.



miserable being, to have no pity upon myself, and yet to be weeping on account of the death of Dido which came from her love for Æneas, whilst I had no tears to shed for that death which comes from not loving Thee, O God, Thou Light of my heart, Thou Bread of the mouth of my inmost spirit, Thou Husband of my mind and of my bosom thought? I did not love Thee, and I was not faithful to Thee, my Spouse, and at my unfaithfulness the world around me echoed, "Well done!" "well done!" "for the friendship of this world is fornication against Thee;" and the "well done!" is repeated till one is ashamed not to be like the rest. And I did not weep at these things, but I wept for Dido "dead, and having by the sword sought a wound extreme," I myself all the while seeking extreme things, Thy lowest creatures, having forsaken Theeearth turning towards earth. And if forbidden to read all this, I was grieved because I might not read what made me grieve. Such folly is accounted a more honourable and a richer kind of learning, than that by which I learned to read and write.

[ocr errors]

But now let my God cry aloud within my soul; and let Thy truth say to me: "It is not so, it is not so; far better were those first lessons." For, lo, I would rather forget the wanderings of Æneas and all the rest, than forget the way to read and write. But it is true that veils hang over the thresholds of the grammar schools; yet these are less signs of an honourable secrecy than cloaks of error. Let not

Eneid, vi. 457.

2 Veils were hung up in courts of law as emblems of honour, and perhaps, as here indicated, having the further significance of something hidden and mysterious.



those of whom I no longer stand in fear cry out against me, whilst I confess to Thee, my God, whatever my soul desires, and whilst I find pleasure in condemning my own evil ways, that I may love Thy good ways. Let not the sellers and buyers of grammar cry out against me for if I ask whether it is true, as the poet says, that Æneas at one time came to Carthage; the less learned of them will reply that they do not know, the more learned that he never did. But if I were to ask them with what letters the name "Æneas" is written, all who know their letters could make a true reply, according to the accepted use of those signs, upon which men have agreed amongst themselves. Therefore, if I were to ask, which of the two would prove the greater hindrance to the affairs of life, to forget the way to read and write, or to forget these poetic fictions, who, in his right senses, does not see what the reply must be? Therefore I erred as a boy when I preferred these follies to more profitable things, or rather when I loved the one and hated the other. Thus one and one are two, two and two are four," was an odious sing-song to me; whilst the wooden horse filled with armed men, and the burning of Troy, and "the shade of Creusa herself," were to my vanity a most delightful spectacle.




He hated Greek.

HY then did I hate the Greek language, in which were similar stories. For Homer also skilfully

1 Æneid, ii. 772.

« AnteriorContinuar »