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have a dactyl for their base. He also possesses another fault in common with all the poets of the middle ages — the frequent use of unnecessary particles, inserted only to help the verse. The subject of Columbanus's poetry never varies; all his pieces are designed to convey to his friends his exhortations to quit the vanities and vexations of the world, which he seems to have thought would be longer retained in their memory if expressed in metre.”
The prose writings of St. Columbanus—for despite his heterodoxy concerning Easter, our poet received canonisation-have also been frequently reprinted; they are all of a religious and controversial character.
(Cerca 620-680.) Cadmon, the earliest of our Anglo-Saxon poets whose productions have been transmitted to us, and who may therefore be regarded as the proto-poet of England, was born in Northumberland, in February, about the year 620, and in his youth served as cowherd upon some proprietor's estate near Whitby. He was, we are informed by
Venerable Bede, so ignorant, that he had not even learned any poetry; so that often, when at supper in the common hall the harp was moved towards him, that he might, according to the custom of the period,
sing for the entertainment of the company, he would rise for very shame and retire to his own cottage. One night, having thus withdrawn to the stables, where it was his turn to watch, he lay down and immediately fell into a deep slumber. While thus entranced, a stranger appeared beside him, and said, “ Cædmon, sing to me.” Cædmon answered, “I cannot sing; it was because I cannot sing that I left the hall.” The stranger insisted, “ I am sure thou hast something to sing.” “What can I sing ?” returned Cædmon. “Sing the creation,” said the stranger; and thereupon Oædmon found verses rise to his lips which he had never heard before. Cædmon then awoke : the stranger had vanished; but the poor cowherd, whom he had inspired, was able not only to repeat the lines he had uttered in his sleep, but to continue, in flowing verse, the narrative of which they formed the exordium. Next morning he repaired to the bailiff of Whitby, who accompanied him to the Abbess Hilda, before whom, and several monks assembled for the purpose, he recited the poem he had so marvellously acquired. The learned auditory at once pronounced that he had received the gift of song from Heaven ; and expounding to him, in his native tongue, a portion of Scripture, requested him to reproduce it in verse. Cædmon returned home with his theme; and by the next day had composed a poem so excellent, that the abbess and her learned friends were in ecstasies. Upon their earnest entreaty Cædmon became a monk, and applied himself to the conversion into verse of the whole of the Scriptures. He was never able to master the art of reading ; but it was his practice continually to repeat to himself what he heard, and “like a clean animal, ruminating it, he turned it into most sweet verse.” We learn from Bede that our poet's works, as they existed in his time (he died 735), treated successively of the whole history of Genesis, of the journey of the children of Israel from Egypt to the land of promise, with many other sacred histories; of the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension; of the advent of the Holy Ghost, the doctrine of the Apostles, the terrors of the day of judgment, the pains of hell, and the sweetness of the heavenly kingdom. The course of Cædmon's life after he became a monk was tranquil and happy. His death took place, it is conjectured, in the year 680. He was buried in the monastery of Whitby, where, according to William of Malmesbury, his bones were discovered in the earlier part of the twelfth century. His works, originally printed at Amsterdam, in 1635, from a manuscript presented by Archbishop Usher to Junius, the eminent philologist, were, in 1832, edited by Mr. Thorpe, by whom the text, carefully formed from the original manuscript, has been accompanied with a literal English version.
(Circa 656-709.) Aldhelm was the son of Kenred, or Kenter, kipsman of Ina, king of the West Saxons. He was born in 656, at Caer Bladon, now Malmesbury, in Wiltshire. He had part of his education abroad and part at home, under Meildulf, an Irish monk, who had built a little cell among the ruins of an ancient town in the forest which then covered the north-eastern districts of Wiltshire. Upon the death of Meildulf, Aldhelm, by the help of Eleutherius, Bishop of Winchester, built (circa 683) a monastery where the cell had stood, and was himself its first abbot. When Hedda, Bishop of the West Saxons, died, Wessex was divided into two dioceses, Winchester and Shireburn; and King Ina promoted Aldhelm to the latter see, comprehending Dorsetshire, Wiltshire, Devonshire, and Cornwall. He was consecrated at Rome by Pope Sergius I. ; and Godwin tells us that he had the courage to reprove his Holiness for his incontinence. Aldhelm, by the directions of a diocesan synod, wrote a book against the mistake of the Britons concerning the celebration of Easter, which brought over many of them to the Catholic usage in that point. He likewise produced a work, partly in prose and partly in hexameter Latin verse, in praise of virginity, dedicated to Ethelburga, Abbess of Barking, and published amongst Bede's Opuscula, besides several other treatises, which are mentioned by Bale and William of Malmesbury, the latter of whom gives him the following character as a writer : “ The language of the Greeks is close and concise, that of the Romans splendid, and that of the English pompous and swelling : as for Aldhelm, he is moderate in his style, and seldom makes use of foreign terms, and never without necessity. His Catholic meaning is clothed with eloquence, and his most vehement assertions adorned with the colours of rhetoric. If you read him with attention, you would take him for a Grecian by his acuteness, a Roman by his elegance, and an Englishman by the pomp of his language.” The monkish authors, according to custom, have ascribed various miracles to Aldhelm. That he was the first Englishman who ever wrote in Latin, he himself tells us in one of his treatises on metre : “ These things have I written concerning the kinds and measures of verse, collected with much labour, but whether useful I know not; though I am conscious to myself I have a right to boast as Virgil did :
"I first, returning from th’ Aonian hill,
Will lead the Muses to my native land.'” William of Malmesbury tells us, after King Alfred, that the people