Page images

of a large basin, half surrounded by ciples a perfect model for their imitation, abrupt and picturesque heights, rises a and a transcript of his rule.

Being scarped and isolated hill, the vast and chosen by God, like another Moses, to rounded summit which overlooks the conduct faithful souls into the true procourse of the Liris near its fountain- mised land, the kingdom of heaven, he head, and the undulating plain which was enriched with eminent supernatural extends south towards the shores of the gifts, even those of miracles and proMediterranean, and the narrow valleys phecy. He seemed like another Eliseus, which, towards the north, the east, and endued by God with an extraordinary the west, lose themselves in the lines of power, commanding all nature, and, like the mountainous horizon. This is Monte the ancient prophets, foreseeing future Cassino. At the foot of this rock, Bene-events. He often raised the sinking dict found an amphitheatre of the time courage of his monks, and baffled the of the Cæsars, amidst the ruins of the various artifices of the Devil with the town of Casinum, which the most sign of the cross, rendered the heaviest learned and pious of Romans, Varro, stone light in building his monastery by that pagan Benedictine, whose memory a short prayer, and, in presence of a and knowledge the sons of Benedict multitude of people, raised to life a took pleasure in honouring, had rendered novice who had been crushed by the fall illustrious. From the summit the pros- of a wall at Mount Cassino." pect extended on one side towards Arpi A story of St. Benedict and his sister num, where the prince of Roman orators Scholastica is thus told by Mrs. Jamewas born, and on the other towards son, Legends of Monastic Orders, p. 12 : Aquinum, already celebrated as the “ Towards the close of his long life birthplace of Juvenal, before it was Benedict was consoled for many trou. known as the country of the Doctor bles by the arrival of his sister ScholasAngelicus, which latter distinction should tica, who had already devoted herself to make the name of this little town known a religious life, and now took up her among all Christians.

residence in a retired cell about a league “It was amidst these noble recollec- and a half from his convent. Very little tions, this solemn nature, and upon that is known of Scholastica, except that she predestinated height, that the patriarch emulated her brother's piety and selfof the monks of the West founded the denial ; and although it is not said that capital of the monastic order. He she took any vows, she is generally con. found paganism still surviving there. sidered as the first Benedictine nun. Two hundred years after Constantine, When she followed her brother to Monte in the heart of Christendom, and so near Cassino, she drew around her there a Rome, there still existed a very ancient small community of pious women ; but temple of Apollo and a sacred wood, nothing more is recorded of her, except where a multitude of peasants sacrificed that he used to visit her once a year. to the gods and demons. Benedict On one occasion, when they had been preached the faith of Christ to these for conversing together on spiritual matters gotten people; he persuaded them to till rather late in the evening, Benedict cut down the wood, to overthrow the rose to depart ; his sister entreated him temple and the idol."

to remain a little longer, but he refused. On the ruins of this temple he built Scholastica then, bending her head over two chapels, and higher up the moun- her clasped hands, prayed that Heaven tain, in 529, laid the foundation of his would interfere and render it impossible famous monastery. Fourteen years for her brother to leave her, Imme. afterwards he died in the church of diately there came on such a furious this monastery, standing with his arms temvest of rain, thunder, and lightning, stretched out in prayer.

that Benedict was obliged to delay his “St. Bennet,” says Butler, Lives of departure for some hours. As soon as the Saints, III. 235, “calls his Order the storm had subsided, he took leave of a chuc in which men learn how to his sister, and returned to the monas. serve God; and his life was to his dis- tery: it was a last meeting ; St. Scho

in lastica died two days afterwards, and St. At the age of twenty he saw his father Benedict, as he was praying in his cell, kill his adversary in a duel ; and, smit. beheld the soul of his sister ascending to ten with remorse, imagined that he must heaver in the form of a dove. This expiate the crime by doing penance in incident is ofien found in the pictures his own person. He accordingly retired painted for the Benedictine nuns. to a Benedictine convent in the neigh

For the history of the monastery of bourhood of Ravema, and became a Monte Cassino see the Chron. Monast. monk. At the end of seven years, Casiniensis, in Muratori, Script. ker. scandalised with the irregular lives of Ital., IV., and Dantier, Jonastères the brotherhood, and their disregard of Bénedictins a'Italie.

the rules of the Order, he undertook the 49. St. Macarius, who established difficult task of bringing them back to the monastic rule of the East, as St. the austere life of their founder. After Benedict did that of the West, was a a conflict of many years, during which confectioner of Alexandria, who, carried he encountered and overcame the usual away by religious enthusiasm, became perils that beset the path of a reformer, an anchorite in the Thebaid of Upper he succeeded in winning over some hunEgypt, about 335. In 373 he came to dreds of his brethren, and established Lower Egypt, and lived in the Desert of his new Order of Reformed Benedicthe Cells, so called from the great mul- tines. titude of its hermit-cells. He had also St. Romualdus built many monashermitages in the deserts of Scete and teries ; but chief among them is that of Nitria ; and in these several places he Camaldoli, thirty miles east of Florence, passed upwards of sixty years in holy which was founded in 1009. It takes contemplation, saying to his soul, “Hav- its name from the former owner of the ing taken up thine abode in heaven, land, a certain Maldoli, who gave it to where thou hast God and his holy angels St. Romualdus. Campo Maldoli, say the to converse with, see that thou descend authorities, became Camaldoli. It is not thence; regard not earthly things." more likely to be the Tuscan Ca' Mal

Among other anecdotes of St. Ma- doli, for Casa Maldoli. carius, Butler, Lives of the Saints, I. 50, “ In this place,” says Butler, Lives of relates the following: “Our saint hap- the Saints, II. 86, “St. Romuald built pened one day inadvertently to kill a a monastery, and, by the several obsergnat that was bitirg him in his cell; vances he added to St. Benedict's rule, reflecting that he had lost the oppor- gave birth to that new Order called Catunity of suffering that mortification, he maldoli, in which he united the cenobitic hastened from his cell for the marshes of and eremitical life. After seeing in a Scete, which abound with great fies, vision his monks mounting up a ladder whose stings pierce even wild boars. to heaven all in white, he changed their There he continued six months exposed habit from black to white. The herto those ravaging insects; and to such a mitage is two short miles distant from degree was his whole body disfigured by the monastery. It is a mountain quite them with sores and swellings, that when overshadowed by a dark wood of firhe returned he was only to be known by trees. In it are seven clear springs of his voice."

water. The very sight of this solitude St. Romualdus, founder of the Order in the midst of the forest helps to fill the of Camaldoli, or Reformed Benedic- mind with compunction, and a love of tines, was born of the noble family of heavenly contemplation. On entering the Onesti, in Ravenna, about 956. it, we meet with a chapel of St. Antony Brought up in luxury and ease, he still for travellers to pray in before they ad. had glimpses of better things, and, while vance any farther. Next are the cells hunting the wild boar in the pine woods and lodgings for the porters. Some. of Ravenna, would sometimes stop to what farther is the church, which is muse, and, uttering a prayer, exclaim : large, well built, and richly adornede “How happy were the ancient hermits Over the door is a clock, which strikes who had such babitations."

so loud that it may be heard all over


the desert. On the left side of the having entered, he saw the grass growing church is the cell in which St. Romuald upon the windows, and all the books and lived, when he first established these shelves covered with dust. And, wonhermits. Their cells, built of stone, dering, he began to open and turn over, have each a little garden walled round. now this book and now that, and sound A constant fire is allowed to be kept in there many and various volumes of ancient every cell on account of the coldness of and rare works. From some of them the air throughout the year ; each cell whole sheets had been torn out, in others has also a chapel in which they may say the margins of the leaves were clipped,

and thus they were greatly defaced. At See also Purg. V. Note 96. The length, full of pity that the labours and legend of St. Romualdus says that he studies of so many illustrious minds should lived to the age of one hundred and have fallen into the hands of such proflitwenty. It says, also, that in 1466, gate men, grieving and weeping he withnearly four hundred years after his drew. And coming into the cloister, he death, his body was found still un- asked a monk whom he met, why those corrupted ; but that four years later, most precious books were so vilely mutiwhen it was stolen from its tomb, it lated." He replied, that some of the crumbled into dust.

monks, wishing to gain a few ducats, cut 65. In that sphere alone ; that is, in out a handful of leaves, and made psalters the Empyrean, which is eternal and im- which they sold to boys; and likewise of mutable.

the margins they made breviaries which Lucretius, Nature of Things, III. 530, they sold to women. Now, therefore, O Good's Tr. :

scholar, rack thy brains in the making of

books!” But things immortal ne'er can be transposed,

77. To dens of thieves.

" And the Ne'er take addition, nor encounter loss; monks' hoods and habits are full," says For what once changes, by the change alone Subverts immediate its anterior life.

Buti, “of wicked and sinful souls, of

evil thoughts and ill-will. And as from 70. Genesis xxviii. 12: “ And he bad flour bad bread is made, so from illdreamed, and, behold, a ladder set up will, which is in the monks, come evil on the earth, and the top of it reached deeds." to heaven : and, behold, the angels of 79. The usurer is not so offensive to God ascending and descending on it." God as the monk who squanders th:

74. So neglected, that it is mere revenues of the Church in his own plea. waste of paper to transcribe it. In sures and vices, commenting upon this line, Benvenuto 94. Psalm cxiv. 5:“What ailed thee, gives an interesting description of Boc. O thou sea, that thou fleddest ? thou caccio's visit to the library of Monte Jordan, that thou wast driven back ?" Cassino, which he had from his own The power that wrought these miracles lips. “To the clearer understanding can also bring help to the corruptions of of this passage," he says, “I will repeat the Church, great as the impossibility what my venerable preceptor, Boccaccio may seem. of Certaldo, pleasantly narrated to me.

107. Paradise.

“Truly,” says Buti, He said, that when he was in Apulia, / " the glory of Paradise may be called a being attracted by the fame of the place, triumph, for the blessed triumph in their he went to the noble monastery of Monte victory over the world, the flesh, and Cassino, of which we are speaking. And the Devil." being eager to see the library, which he III. The sign that follows Taurus is lead heard was very noble, he humbly- the sign of the Gemini, under which gentle creature that he was !— besought Dante was born. a monk to do him the favour to open it. 112. Of the influences of Gemini, Pointing to a lofty staircase, he answered Buti, quoting Albumasar, says : The stiffly, Go up; it is open.' Joyfully sign of the Gemini signifies great devo. ascending, he found the place of so great tion and genius, such as became our a treasure without door or fastening; and author speaking of such lofty theme. Il

signifies, also, sterility, and moderation beautiful modification which it receives in manners and in religion, beauty, and is that with itself, and the first which Jeportment, and cleanliness, when this it receives is twenty, consequently the sign is in the ascendant, or the lord of movement aforesaid is signified by this the descendant is present, or the Moon; number. And by the thousand is signi. and largeness of mind, and goodness, and fied the movement of increase ; for in liberality in spending."

name this thousand is the greatest num115. Dante was born May 14th, 1265, ber, and cannot increase except by multiwhen the Sun rose and set in Gemini; or plying itself. And Physics show these as Barlow, Study of Div. Com., p. 505, three movements only, as is proved in says, “the day on which in that year the the fifth chapter of its first book. And Sun entered the constellation Gemini." on account of the Galaxy this heaven has He continues : “Giovanni Villani (Lib. great resemblance to Metaphysics. For VI. Ch. 92) gives an account of a re it must be known that of this Galaxy the markable comet which preceded the birth philosophers have hield diverse opinions. of Dante by nine months, and lasted For the Pythagoreans said that the Sun three, from July to October. This once wandered out of his path ; and, marvellous meteor, much more worthy passing through other parts not adapted of notice than Donna Bella's dream re. to his heat, he burned the place through lated by Boccaccio, has not hitherto which he passed, and the appearance of found its way into the biography of the the burning, remained there.

I think poet.'

they were influenced by the fable of 119. The Ileaven of the Fixed Stars. Phaeton which Ovid narrates at the beOf the symbolism of this heaven, Dante, ginning of the second book of his MetaConvito, II. 15, says: “The Starry morphoses. Others, as Anaxagoras and Heaven may be compared to Physics on Democritus, said that it was the light of account of three properties, and to Meta- the Sun reflected in that part. And physics on account of three others; for these opinions they proyed by demon. it shows us two visible things, such as strative reasons. What Aristotle said its many stars, and the Galaxy; that is, upon this subject cannot be exactly the white circle which the vulgar call known, because his opinion is not the the Road of St. James ; and it shows same in one translation as in the other. us one of its poles, and the other it con- | And I think this was an error of the ccals from us; and it shows us only one translators; for in the new he seems to motion from east to west, and another say that it is a collection of vapours bewhich it has from west to east it keeps neath the stars in that part, which always almost hidden from us. Therefore we attract them; and this does not seem to must note in order, first its comparison be very reasonable. In the old he says, with Physics, and then with Metaphysics. that the Galaxy is nothing but a multiThe Starry Heaven, I say, shows us tude of fixed stars in that part, so small many stars; for, according as the wise that we cannot distinguish them here men of Egypt have computed, down to below, but from them proceeds that the last star that appears in their meri- brightness which we call the Galaxy. dian, there are one thousand and I wenty. And it may be that the heaven in that two clusters of the stars I speak of. And part is more dense, and therefore retains in this it bears a great resemblance to and reflects that light, and this seems to Physics, if these three members, namely, be the opinion of Aristotle, Avicenna, Iwo and twenty and a thousand, are and Ptolemy. Hence, inasmuch as the carefully considered ; for by the two is Galaxy is an effect of those stars which understood the local movement, which of we cannot see, but comprehend by their necessity is from one point to another; effects, and Metaphysics treats of first and by the twenty is signified the move substances, which likewise we cannot ment of modification ; for, inasmuch as comprehend except by their effects, it is from the ten upwards we proceed only manisest that the starry heaven has great hy modifying this ten with the other resemblance to Metaphysics. Still furnine, and with itsell, and the most ther, by the pole which we see it sigui.



fies things obvious to sense, of which, such prodigious movements should pass taking them as a whole, Physics treats ; in silence; and nature teaches that the and by the pole which we do not see it sounds which the spheres at one signifies the things which are immaterial, tremity utter must be sharp, and those which are not obvious to sense, of which on the other extremity must be grave; Metaphysics treats; and therefore the on which account that highest revolution aforesaid heaven bears a great resem- of the star-studded heaven, whose motion blance to both these sciences. Still is more rapid, is carried on with a sharp further, by its two movements it signifies and quick sound; whereas this of the these two sciences; for, by the move moon, which is situated the lowest, and ment in which it revolves daily and at the other extremity, moves with the makes a new circuit from point to point, gravest sound. For the earth, the ninth it signifies the corruptible things in na- sphere, remaining motionless, abides lure, which daily complete their course, invariably in the innermost position, and their matter is changed from form occupying the central spot in the uni to form ; and of this Physics treats; and verse. by the almost insensible movement which “Now these eight directions, two it makes from west to east of one degree of which have the same powers, effect in a hundred years, it signifies the things seven sounds, diftering in their moduincorruptible, which had from God the lations, which number is the connecting beginning of existence, and shall never principle of almost all things. Sume have an end ; and of these Metaphysics learned men, by imitating this harmony

with strings and vocal melodies, have 135. Cicero, Vision of Scipio, Ed. opened a way for their return to this monds's Tr., p. 294:-

place; as all others have done, who, “Now the place my father spoke of endued with pre-eminent qualities, have was a radiant circle of dazzling bright- cultivated in their mortal life the purness amid the flaming bodies, which you, suits of heaven. as you have learned from the Greeks, ""The ears of mankind, filled with term the Milky Way; from which posi- these sounds, have become deaf, foi of tion all other objects seemed to me, as I all your senses it is the most blunteil. surveyed them, marvellous and glorious. Thus the people who live near the There were stars which we never saw place where the Nile rushes down from from this place, and their magnitudes very high mountains to the parts which were such as we never imagined ; the are called Catadupa, are destitute of the smallest of which was that which, placed sense of hearing, by reason of the upon the extremity of the heavens, but greatness of the noise. Now this sound, nearest to the earth, shone with borrowed which is effected by the rapid rotation of light. But the globular bodies of the the whole system of nature, is so powerstars greatly exceeded the magnitude of ful, that human hearing cannot compre. the earth, which now to me appeared so hend it, just as you cannot look directly small, that I was grieved to see our em- upon the sun, because your sight and pire contracted, as it were, into a very sense are overcome by his beams.'” point.

Also Milton, Par. Lost, II, 1051 “Which as I was gazing at in amazement, I said, as recovered myself, from "And fast by, hanging in a golden chain, whence proceed these sounds so strong, This pendent world, in bigness as a star and yet so sweet, that fill my ears? “The

Of smallest magnitude close by the moon." melody,' replies he, which you hear, and which, though composed in unequal 139. The Moon, called in heaven time, is nevertheless divided into regular Diana, on earth Luna, and in the inharmony, is effected by the impulse and fernal regions Proserpina ; as in the motion of the spheres themselves, which, curious Latin distich :by a happy temper of sharp and grave notes, regularly produces various har. “Terret, lustrat, agit, Proserpina, Luna, Diana, monic effects. Now it is impossible that Ima, suprema, feras, sceptro, fulgore, sagitta.

« PreviousContinue »