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SAINT AUGUSTIN

BY

LOUIS BERTRAND


TRANSLATED BY VINCENT O'SULLIVAN




TRANSLATOR'S NOTE


The quotations from Saint Augustin's _Confessions_ are taken from Canon
Bigg's scholarly version, which seems to me the best in English. But there
are places where M. Bertrand's reading of the original text differs from
Dr. Bigg's, and in such cases I have felt myself obliged to follow the
author of this book. These differences never seriously affect the meaning
of a passage; sometimes it is a mere matter of choice, as with the word
_collactaneum_ (i, 7) which Dr. Bigg translates "twin," and M. Bertrand,
like Pusey, _frère de lait_, or "foster-brother." As a rule, Dr. Bigg
chooses the quietest terms, and M. Bertrand the most forcible. Those
curious in such matters may like to see an instance.

The original text runs: -

Avulsa a latere meo tanquam impedimento conjugii, cum quâ cubare
solitus eram, cor ubi adhaerebat, concisum et vulneratum mihi erat, et
trahebat sanguinem.

(_Confessiones_, vi, 15.)

M. Bertrand translates: -

Quand on arracha de mes flancs, sous prétexte qu'elle empêchait mon
mariage, celle avec qui j'avais coutume de dormir, depuis si longtemps,
là où mon coeur était attaché au sien, il se déchira, et je traînais
mon sang avec ma blessure.

Canon Bigg's version is: -

My mistress was torn from my side as an obstacle to my marriage, and my
heart, which clung to her, was torn and wounded till it bled.

In this place, it will be observed that Dr. Bigg does not emphasize the
word _ubi_ which, as the reader will find on turning to page 185 of this
volume, M. Bertrand thinks so significant.

The remaining English versions of the writings of Saint Augustin and of the
other Latin authors quoted are my own, except the passages from _The City
of God_, including the verse translation of Persius, which are taken,
with some necessary alterations, from the Seventeenth century translation
ascribed to John Healey.

V. O'S.




CONTENTS


CHAPTER

PROLOGUE


THE FIRST PART

DAYS OF CHILDHOOD

I. AN AFRICAN FREE-TOWN SUBJECT TO ROME

II. THE FAMILY OF A SAINT

III. THE COMFORT OF THE MILK

IV. THE FIRST GAMES

V. THE SCHOOLBOY OF MADAURA

VI. THE HOLIDAYS AT THAGASTE


THE SECOND PART

THE ENCHANTMENT OF CARTHAGE

I. CARTHAGO VENERIS

II. THE AFRICAN ROME

III. THE CARTHAGE STUDENT

IV. THE SWEETNESS OF TEARS

V. THE SILENCE OF GOD


THE THIRD PART

THE RETURN

I. THE CITY OF GOLD

II. THE FINAL DISILLUSION

III. THE MEETING BETWEEN AMBROSE AND AUGUSTIN

IV. PLANS OF MARRIAGE

V. THE CHRIST IN THE GARDEN


THE FOURTH PART

THE HIDDEN LIFE

I. THE LAST SMILE OF THE MUSE

II. THE ECSTASY OF SAINT MONNICA

III. THE MONK OF THAGASTE

IV. AUGUSTIN A PRIEST


THE FIFTH PART

THE APOSTLE OF PEACE AND OF CATHOLIC UNITY

I. THE BISHOP OF HIPPO

II. WHAT WAS HEARD IN THE BASILICA OF PEACE

III. THE BISHOP'S BURTHEN

IV. AGAINST "THE ROARING LIONS"


THE SIXTH PART

FACE TO FACE WITH THE BARBARIANS

I. THE SACK OF ROME

II. THE CITY OF GOD

III. THE BARBARIAN DESOLATION

IV. SAINT AUGUSTIN


INDEX




SAINT AUGUSTIN




PROLOGUE


Inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.
"Our heart finds no rest until it rests in Thee."

_Confessions_, I, i.


Saint Augustin is now little more than a celebrated name. Outside of
learned or theological circles people no longer read him. Such is true
renown: we admire the saints, as we do great men, on trust. Even his
_Confessions_ are generally spoken of only from hearsay. By this neglect,
is he atoning for the renewal of glory in which he shone during the
seventeenth century, when the Jansenists, in their inveterate obstinacy,
identified him with the defence of their cause? The reputation of sour
austerity and of argumentative and tiresome prolixity which attaches to
the remembrance of all the writers of Port-Royal, save Pascal - has that
affected too the work of Augustin, enlisted in spite of himself in the
ranks of these pious schismatics? And yet, if there have ever been any
beings who do not resemble Augustin, and whom probably he would have
attacked with all his eloquence and all the force of his dialectic, they
are the Jansenists. Doubtless he would have said with contempt: "The party
of Jansen," even as in his own day, with his devotion to Catholic unity, he
said: "The party of Donatus."

It must be acknowledged also that the very sight of his works is
terrifying, whether we take the enormous folios in two columns of the
Benedictine edition, or the volumes, almost as compact, and much more
numerous, of recent editions. Behind such a rampart of printed matter he is
well defended against profane curiosity. It needs courage and perseverance
to penetrate into this labyrinth of text, all bristling with theology and
exegesis and metaphysics. But only cross the threshold of the repellent
enclosure, grow used to the order and shape of the building, and it will
not be long ere you are overcome by a warm sympathy, and then by a steadily
increasing admiration for the host who dwells there. The hieratic face
of the old bishop lights up, becomes strangely living, almost modern, in
expression. You discover under the text one of the most passionate lives,
most busy and richest in instruction, that history has to shew. What it
teaches is applicable to ourselves, answers to our interests of yesterday
and to-day. This existence, and the century in which it was passed, recall
our own century and ourselves. The return of similar circumstances has
brought similar situations and characters; it is almost our portrait. And
we feel half ready to conclude that at the present moment there is no
subject more actual than St. Augustin.

At least he is one of the most interesting. What, indeed, is more romantic
than this wandering life of rhetorician and student that the youthful
Augustin led, from Thagaste to Carthage, from Carthage to Milan and to
Rome - begun in the pleasures and tumult of great cities, and ending in the
penitence, the silence, and recollection of a monastery? And again, what
drama is more full of colour and more profitable to consider than that last
agony of the Empire, of which Augustin was a spectator, and, with all his
heart faithful to Rome, would have prevented if he could? And then, what
tragedy more stirring and painful than the crisis of soul and conscience
which tore his life? Well may it be said that, regarded as a whole, the
life of Augustin was but a continual spiritual struggle, a battle of the
soul. It is the battle of every moment, the never-ceasing combat of body
and spirit, which the poets of that time dramatized, and which is the
history of the Christian of all times. The stake of the battle is a soul.
The upshot is the final triumph, the redemption of a soul.

What makes the life of Augustin so complete and so truly typical is that
he fought the good fight, not only against himself, but against all the
enemies of the Church and the Empire. If he was a doctor and a saint, so
was he too the type of the man of action in one of the most disheartened
periods. That he triumphed over his passions - this, in truth, concerns only
God and himself. That he preached, wrote, shook crowds, disturbed minds,
may seem without importance to those who reject his doctrine. But that
across the centuries his soul, afire with charity, continues to warm our
own; that without our knowledge he still shapes us; and that, in a way
more or less remote, he is still the master of our hearts, and, in certain
aspects, of our minds - there is what touches each and all of us, without
distinction. Not only has Augustin always his great place in the living
communion of all christened people, but the Western soul is marked with the
stamp of his soul.

First of all, his fate is confused with that of the dying Empire. He
witnessed, if not the utter disappearance, at least the gradual swooning
away of that admirable thing called the Roman Empire, image of Catholic
unity. Well, we are the wreckage of the Empire. Usually, we turn away with
contempt from those wretched centuries which underwent the descents of the
Barbarians. For us, that is the Lower-Empire, a time of shameful decadence
which deserves nothing but our scorn. However, it is out of this chaos
and this degradation that we have arisen. The wars of the Roman republic
concern us less than the outlawry of the Barbarian chiefs who separated our
Gaul from the Empire, and without knowing it, prepared the dawn of France.
After all, what are the rivalries of Marius and Sylla to us? The victory of
Aëtius over the Huns in the plains of Chalons concerns us a good deal more.
Further, it is unfair to the Lower-Empire to view it only as a time of
feebleness and cowardice and corruption. It was also an epoch of immense
activity, prolific of daring and high-flying adventurers, some of them
heroic. Even the most degenerate of the last Emperors never lost the
conviction of Roman majesty and grandeur. Unto the very end, they employed
all the ruses of their diplomacy to prevent the Barbarian chiefs from
imagining themselves anything else but vassals of the Empire. Honorius, at
bay in Ravenna, persisted in refusing Alaric the title of commander of the
_Cohortes Urbanæ_, even though his refusal were to lead to the sack of Rome
and imperil his own life.

Simply by his fidelity to the Empire, Augustin shews himself one like
ourselves - a Latin of Occitania. But still closer resemblances draw him
near to us. His time was very like our own time. Upon even a slight
familiarity with his books we recognize in him a brother-soul who has
suffered, felt, thought, pretty nearly like us. He came into an ending
world, on the eve of the great cataclysm which was going to carry away an
entire civilization - a tragic turning-point of history, a time troubled and
often very grievous, which was hard to live in for all, and to even the
most determined minds must have appeared desperate. The peace of the Church
was not yet settled; consciences were divided. People hesitated between the
belief of yesterday and the belief of to-morrow. Augustin was among those
who had the courage to choose, and who, having once chosen their faith,
proclaimed it without weakening. The belief of a thousand years was dying
out, quenched by a young belief to which was promised an eternal duration.
How many delicate souls must have suffered from this division, which cut
them off from their traditions and obliged them, as they thought, to be
false to their dead along with the religion of their ancestors! All the
irritations which the fanatics of to-day inflict upon believing souls, many
must have had to suffer then. The sceptics were infused by the intolerance
of the others. But the worst (even as it is to-day) was to watch the
torrent of foolishness which, under cover of religion, philosophy, or
miracle-working, pretended to the conquest of mind and will. Amid this mass
of wildest doctrines and heresies, in this orgy of vapid intellectualism,
they had indeed solid heads who were able to resist the general
intoxication. And among all these people talking nonsense, Augustin appears
admirable with his good sense.

This "intellectual," this mystic, was not only a man of prayer and
meditation. The prudence of the man of action and the administrator
balanced his outbursts of dialectical subtility, often carried too far. He
had that sense of realities such as we flatter ourselves that we have; he
had a knowledge of life and passion. Compared to the experience of, say,
Bossuet, how much wider was Augustin's! And with all that, a quivering
sensitiveness which is again like our own - the sensitiveness of times of
intense culture, wherein the abuse of thought has multiplied the ways of
suffering in exasperating the desire for pleasure. "The soul of antiquity
was rude and vain." It was, above all, limited. The soul of Augustin is
tender and serious, eager for certainties and those enjoyments which do
not betray. It is vast and sonorous; let it be stirred ever so little, and
from it go forth deep vibrations which render the sound of the infinite.
Augustin, before his conversion, had the apprehensions of our Romantics,
the causeless melancholy and sadness, the immense yearnings for "anywhere
but here," which overwhelmed our fathers. He is really very close to us.

He has broadened our Latin souls by reconciling us with the Barbarian. The
Latin, like the Greek, only understood himself. The Barbarian had not the
right to express himself in the language of the Empire. The world was split
into two parts which endeavoured to ignore each other, Augustin has made us
conscious of the nameless regions, the vague countries of the soul, which
hitherto had lain shrouded in the darkness of barbarism. By him the union
of the Semitic and the Occidental genius is consummated. He has acted as
our interpreter for the Bible. The harsh Hebraic words become soft to our
ears by their passage through the cultivated mouth of the rhetorician. He
has subjugated us with the word of God. He is a Latin who speaks to us of
Jehovah.

Others, no doubt, had done it before him. But none had found a similar
emotion, a note of tenderness so moving. The gentle violence of his charity
wins the adherence of hearts. He breathes only charity. After St. John, it
is he who is the Apostle of Love.

His tireless voice dominated the whole of the West. The Middle Ages still
heard it. For centuries his sermons and treatises were copied over and
over again; they were repeated in cathedrals, commented in abstracts of
theology. People came to accept even his theory of the fine arts. All that
we have inherited from the ancients reaches us through Augustin. He is the
great teacher. In his hands the doctrinal demonstration of the Catholic
religion takes firm shape. To indicate the three great stages of the onward
march of the truth, one may say: Jesus Christ, St. Paul, St. Augustin.
Nearest to our weakness is the last. He is truly our spiritual father. He
has taught us the language of prayer. The words of Augustin's prayers are
still upon the lips of the devout.

This universal genius, who during forty years was the speaking-trumpet of
Christendom, was also the man of one special century and country. Augustin
of Thagaste is the great African.

Well may we be proud of him and adopt him as one of our glories - we who
have kept up, for now almost a century, a struggle like to that which
he maintained for the unity of the Roman Empire, we who consider Africa
as an extension of France. More than any other writer, he has expressed
the temperament and the genius of his country. This motley Africa, with
its eternal mixture of races at odds with one another, its jealous
sectarianism, the variety of its scenery and climate, the violence
of its sensations and passions, its seriousness of character and its
quick-changing humour, its mind at once practical and frivolous, its
materialism and its mysticism, its austerity and its luxury, its
resignation to servitude and its instincts of independence, its hunger
to rule - all that comes out with singularly vivid touches in the work of
Augustin. Not only was he his country's voice, but, as far as he could, he
realized its old dream of dominion. The supremacy in spiritual matters that
Carthage disputed so long and bitterly with Rome, it ended by obtaining,
thanks to Augustin. As long as he lived, the African Church was the
mistress of the Churches of the West.

As for me - if I may venture to refer to myself in such a matter - I have had
the joy to recognize in him, besides the Saint and Teacher whom I revere,
the ideal type of the Latin of Africa. The image of which I descried the
outline long ago through the mirages of the South in following the waggons
of my rugged heroes, I have seen at last become definite, grow clear, wax
noble and increase to the very heaven, in following the traces of Augustin.

And even supposing that the life of this child of Thagaste, the son of
Monnica, were not intermingled so deeply with ours, though he were for us
only a foreigner born in a far-off land, nevertheless he would still remain
one of the most fascinating and luminous souls who have shone amid our
darkness and warmed our sadness - one of the most human and most divine
creatures who have trod our highways.




THE FIRST PART

DAYS OF CHILDHOOD

Sed delectabat ludere.
"Only, I liked to play."

_Confessions_, I, 9.




I

AN AFRICAN FREE-TOWN SUBJECT TO ROME


Little streets, quite white, which climb up to clay-formed hills deeply
furrowed by the heavy winter rains; between the double row of houses,
brilliant in the morning sun, glimpses of sky of a very tender blue; here
and there, in the strip of deep shade which lies along the thresholds,
white figures crouched upon rush-mats - indolent outlines, draped with
bright colours, or muffled in rough and sombre wool-stuffs; a horseman who
passes, bent almost in two in his saddle, the big hat of the South flung
back over his shoulders, and encouraging with his heel the graceful trot of
his horse - such is Thagaste as we see it to-day, and such undoubtedly it
appeared to the traveller in the days of Augustin.

Like the French town built upon its ruins, the African free-city lay in a
sort of plain taken between three round hills. One of them, the highest
one, which is now protected by a _bordj_, must have been defended in old
days by a _castellum_. Full-flowing waters moisten the land. To those
coming from the stony regions about Constantine and Setif, or the vast bare
plain of the Medjerda, Thagaste gives an impression of freshness and cool.
It is a laughing place, full of greenery and running water. To the Africans
it offers a picture of those northern countries which they have never seen,
with its wooded mountains covered by pines and cork trees and ilex. It
presents itself as a land of mountain and forest - especially forest. It is
a hunter's country. Game is plentiful there - boar, hare, redwing, quail,
partridge. In Augustin's time, wild beasts were apparently more numerous in
the district than they are to-day. When he compares his adversaries, the
Donatists, to roaring lions, he speaks like a man who knows what a lion is.

To the east and west, wide stretches of woodland, rounded hill-summits,
streams and torrents which pour through the valleys and glens - there
you have Thagaste and the country round about - the world, in fact, as
it revealed itself to the eyes of the child Augustin. But towards the
south the verdure grows sparse; arid mountain-tops appear, crushed down
as blunted cones, or jutted in slim Tables of the Law; the sterility
of the desert becomes perceptible amid the wealth of vegetation. This
full-foliaged land has its harsh and stern localities. The African light,
however, softens all that. The deep green of the oaks and pines runs into
waves of warm and ever-altering tints which are a caress and a delight for
the eye. A man has it thoroughly brought home to him that he is in a land
of the sun.

To say the least, it is a country of strongly marked features which affords
the strangest contrast with the surrounding districts. This wooded Numidia,
with its flowing brooks, its fields where the cattle graze, differs in the
highest degree from the Numidia towards Setif - a wide, desolate plain,
where the stubble of the wheat-fields, the sandy _steppes_, roll away in
monotonous undulations to the cloudy barrier of Mount Atlas which closes
the horizon. And this rough and melancholy plain in its turn offers a
striking contrast with the coast region of Boujeiah and Hippo, which is not
unlike the Italian Campania in its mellowness and gaiety. Such clear-cut
differences between the various parts of the same province doubtless
explain the essential peculiarities of the Numidian character. The bishop
Augustin, who carried his pastoral cross from one end to the other of this
country, and was its acting and thinking soul, may perhaps have owed to it
the contrasts and many-sidedness of his own rich nature.

Of course, Thagaste did not pretend to be a capital. It was a free-town of
the second or third order; but its distance from the great centres gave it
a certain importance. The neighbouring free-towns, Thubursicum, Thagura,
were small. Madaura and Theveste, rather larger, had not perhaps the same
commercial importance. Thagaste was placed at the junction of many Roman
roads. There the little Augustin, with other children of his age, would
have a chance to admire the out-riders and equipages of the Imperial
Mail, halted before the inns of the town. What we can be sure of is that
Thagaste, then as now, was a town of passage and of traffic, a half-way
stopping-place for the southern and coast towns, as well as for those of
the Proconsulate and Numidia. And like the present Souk-Ahras, Thagaste
must have been above all a market. Bread-stuffs and Numidian wines were
bartered for the flocks of the Aures, leather, dates, and the esparto
basket-work of the regions of Sahara. The marbles of Simitthu, the
citron-wood of which they made precious tables, were doubtless handled
there. The neighbouring forests could furnish building materials to the
whole country. Thagaste was the great mart of woodland Numidia, the
warehouse and the bazaar, where to this day the nomad comes to lay in a
stock of provisions, and stares with childish delight at the fine things
produced by the inventive talent of the workers who live in towns.

Thus images of plenty and joy surrounded the cradle of Augustin. The smile
of Latin beauty welcomed him also from his earliest steps. It is true that
Thagaste was not what is called a fine city. The fragments of antiquity
which have been unearthed there are of rather inferior workmanship. But how
little is needed to give wings to the imagination of an intelligent child!
At all events, Thagaste had a bathing-hall paved with mosaics and perhaps
ornamented with statues; Augustin used to bathe there with his father.
And again, it is probable that, like the neighbouring Thubursicum and
other free-cities of the same level, it had its theatre, its forum, its
nymph-fountains, perhaps even its amphitheatre. Of all that nothing
has been found. Certain inscribed stone tablets, capitals and shafts
of columns, a stone with an inscription which belonged to a Catholic
church - that is all which has been discovered up to this present time.

Let us not ask for the impossible. Thagaste had columns - nay, perhaps a
whole street between a double range of columns, as at Thimgad. That would
be quite enough to delight the eyes of a little wondering boy. A column,
even injured, or scarcely cleansed from wrack and rubbish, has about it
something impressive. It is like a free melody singing among the heavy
masses of the building. To this hour, in our Algerian villages, the mere
sight of a broken column entrances and cheers us - a white ghost of beauty
streaming up from the ruins among the modern hovels.

There were columns at Thagaste.




II

THE FAMILY OF A SAINT


It was in this pleasant little town, shaded and beautified for many years
now by the arts of Rome, that the parents of Augustin lived.

His father, Patricius, affords us a good enough type of the Romanized
African. He belonged to the order of _Decuriones_, to the "very brilliant
urban council of Thagaste" (_splendidissimus ordo Thagastensis_), as an
inscription at Souk-Ahras puts it. Although these strong epithets may be
said to be part of the ordinary official phraseology, they indicate, just
the same, the importance which went with such a position. In his township,
Patricius was a kind of personage. His son assures us that he was poor, but
we may suspect the holy bishop of exaggerating through Christian humility.
Patricius must certainly have owned more than twenty-five acres of land,
for this was made a condition of being elected to the _curia_. He had
vineyards and orchards, of which Augustin later on recalled the plentiful
and sweet-tasting fruits. In short, he lived in considerable style. It
is true that in Africa household expenses have never at any time been a
great extravagance. Still, the sons of Patricius had a pedagogue, a slave
specially engaged to keep them under his eye, like all the children of



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