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tragic tone which the German race was to give to the religion of the East. Never before had the English language clothed such sublime thoughts. Never had limitless desire so struggled, giantlike, with limited utterance. “Others after him,' says Bede, ‘attempted, in the English nation, to compose religious poems, but none could ever compare with him.' Above the din of war and bloodshed, amid the brutality and mental inaction of centuries, he raised his voice and sang the substance of which all the ancient myths were but the shadow; sang with such fervor and persuasion that many were often excited to despise the world, and to aspire to heaven.' The prototype of Milton, as the picture exists in the sketch: the one, the rough draft; the other, the finished intellectual ideal. To the one Satan is a Saxon convict, — fastened by the neck, his hands manacled, and his feet bound; to the other, the ideal being,
•Whose stature reached the sky, and on whose crest
Sat Horror plumed.' The precursor of a new order of ideas, standing at the confluence of two civilizations; a monumental figure placed between two epochs and participating in their two characters, as a stream which, flowing between two different soils, is tinged by both their hues.
Character.—Cheerful and kind, able to obey or command; attentive and punctual in the performance of duty; serious, eminently religious, fond of prayer. 'He never,' writes Bede, could compose frivolous and useless poems, but those alone pertaining to religion became his religious tongue.' A rough, noble expression of the vague, vast mystery of the world and of man. A moment, as old age closes upon him, he lifts the veil, and we see, as we read, the charity, pathos, resignation, Northern melancholy, of the man:
'Soul-longings many in my day I've had.
Of mightiest friends, from me are many now
When the Saviour's Rood that here I contemplate
And with the saints their pleasures I shall share.' Influence. He draped the Oriental imagery of the Bible in the English fashion, and brought it within the comprehension of the humblest. His verses became part of the people's thinking, created for it a new groove, and the recollections of Valhalla paled before the more spiritual and real splendors of the New Elysium. He wrought no revolution in the form of English song, but introduced into it, through the faith of Christ, new realms of fancy.
In our rasping life of gain, we are apt to imagine that art is of little account, but when the years roll by, we learn well enough what the ages value. No doubt this Cædmon, in his ill-furnished room, seemed to the practical man of trade a pitiful cipher, quite out of the march of important affairs; but even their names are forgotten, and all their wealth would now be given for one of the songs of the Whitby shepherd.
The Father of English learning.-Burke. Biography.-Born in the county of Durham, 673; at seven, placed in the newly-founded monastery of St. Peter, Wearmouth; at ten, transferred to the associated monastery of St. Paul, Jarrow, five miles distant. Here, during the remainder of his life, in retirement and prayer, he applied himself to the study of Scripture and the advancement of knowledge. In his nineteenth year, he received the orders of deacon; in his thirtieth, those of the priesthood. The dignity of abbot he declined; 'for,' said he, 'the office demands household care, and household care brings with it distraction of mind, which hinders the prosecution of learning.'
To the very last he worked hard, teaching his numerous disciples and compiling in Latin from the venerable Fathers. Death comes and finds him still at work. Under an attack of asthma,
which has long been sapping his strength, he is urging forward an English version of the Gospel of St. John. It is morning on the 27th of May. Most dear master,' says one of his pupils, 'there is still one chapter wanting; do you think it troublesome to be asked any more questions?'—'It is no trouble,” he answers; ‘take thy pen, and write fast.' At noon, he takes a solemn farewell of his friends, distributing among them treasured spices and other gifts. At sunset the boy says, “Dear master, there is yet one sentence unwritten.'—*Write it quickly,' bids the dying scholar. 'It is finished now,' says the scribe at last.—You have spoken truly,' is the reply, “all is finished. Receive my head into your hands; for it is a great satisfaction to me to sit facing my holy place, where I was wont to pray.' And there on the pavement of his little cell, in the year 735, he falls into his last sleep as his voice reaches the close of the solemn chant, 'Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.'
A tranquil death becomes the man of science or the scholar. The coward dies panic-stricken; the superstitious with visions of terror floating before their fancy: he who has a good conscience and a well-balanced mind, meets death with calmness and hope. Heaven has but recalled its own.'
Writings.—The work which immortalizes his name is the Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation (731), written like nearly all his works — in Latin. A digest of ancient records, of tradition, and of observation. Though tinged with the credulity of his time, it is based upon inquiries made in the true spirit of a historian,— business-like, yet child-like, practical, and spiritual. It is virtually a history of England brought down to the date of its completion.
At the end of this book, he gives a list of his compositions,hymns, commentaries, and homilies; text-books for his pupils, throwing together all that the world had then accumulated in astronomy, physics, philosophy, grammar, rhetoric, medicine, and music. Almost the last words that broke from his lips were some English rhymes upon the uncertainties of the grave: Before the necessary journey
before his departure,
what for his spirit
after the death-day
shall be doomed.'
no one is
of good or evil
Style.- Artless, succinct, moral, and reflective; clear, and often warm with life.
Rank. -Accomplished in the classics —a rare accomplishment in the West, skilled in the ecclesiastical chant, and master of the whole range of the science of his day. First in the order of time, among English scholars, and first among English historians. The glory of the old English period. The living encyclopædia of his age; superior perhaps (so dark was the intellectual night in the East, as in the West) to any man whom the world then possessed. Yet, withal, a great man of talent, not a great man of genius; a prodigious worker rather than a discoverer; a translator, a commentator, who, amid growing anarchy and gross ignorance, digests and compacts, out of dull, voluminous, or almost inaccessible books, what seems good and useful,- doing for the rest what they are unable to do for themselves.
Character.-Gentle, pure, simple-minded, earnest, and devout. Learning but deepened the lustre of his piety. His soul was a sanctuary lighted up with the lamps of angels, and dedicated to the high service of man and his Maker. By nature a student, his paradise was introspective. “My constant pleasure,' he says, “lay in learning, or teaching, or writing.' In acquiring and communicating, his industry was marvellous. Besides the usual manual labors of the monastery, the duties of the priest, and the occupation of teacher, forty-five treatises remained after his death to attest his habitual activity. All this was done with small aid from others. “I am my own secretary,' he writes; 'I make my own notes; I am my own librarian.'
Influence.- From his Ecclesiastical Ilistory we learn nearly all that we know of the Anglo-Saxons and their Church. He is the first figure to which our English science looks back, and the father of English national education. Six hundred monks, besides the strangers that flocked hither for instruction, formed his school of Jarrow; and Northumbria became, for a period, the literary centre of Western Europe. Dissensions and confusion, attending the disintegration of the original political system, will bruise this humble plant, and the wars with the Danes will complete the blight of its promise. Yet will it have, silently, insensibly, a numerous and illustrious progeny. Centuries hence, his
theological and educational works will be held in esteem as authorities and text-books. The light that issues from Jarrow extends to York; Alcuin, by the invitation of Charlemagne, carries it thence to the Continent; French statesmanship and Saxon scholarship go hand in hand to diffuse mediæval civilization; and so, while the fields are wasted by violence, famine, and plague, the Venerable Bede is as a tree planted by the river's side; his branches shall spread, and his beauty be as the olive, and his smell as Lebanon; and what though he dare not speak, they that dwell under his shadow shall return,— they shall revive as the corn and
grow as the vine.
The most perfect character in history. He is a singular instance of a prince who has become a hero of romance, who, as such, has had countless imaginary exploits. attributed to him, but to whose character romance has done no inore than justice, and who appears in exactly the same light in history and in fable.-Freeman.
Biography.-Born at Wantage, 849. Sent to Rome at five, anointed by the Pope, and adopted as his spiritual son; again, two years later, travelling in the train of a king, now at the court of the grandson of Charlemagne, now at the castles of warrior nobles, now with the learned prelates — across the Alps — through the garden of the world-renewing the memories of his childhood amid the ruins, shrines, and palaces of the Eternal City, - what an episode in his young life for observation and thought! Returning, he learns, with the young nobles of Wessex, to run, leap, wrestle, and hunt; illiterate at twelve, and during the period of youth, though a lover of wisdom, without the advantages of special tuition. Marries at twenty, while England is growing dark under the shadow of a tremendous storm; within six weeks, is in arms; at twenty-three, ascends the tottering throne of his fathers, when nine pitched battles have been fought; reduces the pagan leaders to sue humbly for peace, and three months later, in January, is obliged to flee, with a scanty band of followers, into the forest of Selwood. Here, in disguise, in a herdman's hut, by the burning logs on the hearth,