Mrs. James Sadlier.

Purgatory online

. (page 28 of 35)
Online LibraryMrs. James SadlierPurgatory → online text (page 28 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Flies the soul that has departed
In a state of grace; but bearing
Still some stains of sin upon it:
For with these no soul can enter
God's pure kingdom - there it dwelleth
Till it purifies and burneth
All the dross from out its nature;
Then it flieth, pure and limpid,
Into God's divinest presence.

KING. So you say, but I have nothing,
Save your own words, to convince me;
Give me of the soul's existence
Some strong proof - some indication -
Something tangible and certain -
Which my hands may feel and grasp at.
And since you appear so powerful
With your God, you can implore him,
That to finish my conversion,
He may show some real being,
Not a mere ideal essence,
Which all men can touch; remember,
But one single hour remaineth
For this task: this day you give us
Certain proofs of pain or glory,
Or you die: where we are standing
Let your God display his wonders -
And since we, perhaps, may merit
Neither punishment nor glory,
Let the other place be shown us,
Which you say is Purgatory.

PATRICK then prays, concluding with the words:

"I ask, O Lord, may from Thy hand be given,
That Purgatory, Hell, and Heaven
May be revealed unto those mortals' sight."

An Angel then descends and speaks as follows:

ANGEL. Patrick, God has heard thy prayer,
He has listened to thy vows;
And as thou hast ask'd, allows
Earth's great secrets to lie bare.
Seek along this island ground
For a vast and darksome cave,
Which restrains the lake's dark wave,
And supports the mountains round;
He who dares to go therein,
Having first contritely told
All his faults, shall there behold

Where the soul is purged from sin.
He shall see with mortal eyes
Hell itself - where those who die
In their sins forever lie,
In the fire that never dies.
He shall see, in blest fruition,
Where the happy spirits dwell.
But of this be sure as well -
He who without true contrition
Enters there to idly try
What the cave may be, doth go
To his death - he'll suffer woe
While the Lord doth reign on high.
Who this day shall set you free
From this poor world's weariness;

He shall grant to you, in pity,
Bliss undreamed by mortal men -
Making thee a denizen
Of his own celestial city.
He shall to the world proclaim
His omnipotence and glory,
By the wondrous Purgatory,
Which shall bear thy sainted name.

Polonia, the King's daughter, whom Ludovico had married and deserted,
having first tried to kill her, appears upon the scene just as the
King, Patrick, and some others, who have set out upon their quest for
the Purgatory, have reached a gloomy mountain and a deep cave. Polonia
relates the wonders and the terrors of the cavern through which she has
passed. Patrick then speaks as follows:

PATRICK. This cave, Egerio, which you see, concealeth
Many mysteries of life and death,
Not for him whose hardened bosom feeleth
Nought of true repentance or true faith.
But he who freely enters, who revealeth
All his sins with penitential breath,
Shall endure his Purgatory then,
And return forgiven back again.

Later in the drama we find Ludovico desiring

"To enter
Into Patrick's Purgatory;
Humbly and devoutly keeping
Thus the promise that I gave him."

Again, he says:

"I have faith and firm reliance
That you yet shall see me happy,
If in God's name blessed Patrick,

"Aid me in the Purgatory."

Having confessed his sins and made due preparation, he enters the cave.
On his return hence, the Priest, or Canon as he is called, bids him
relate the wonders he has seen. He finds himself first "in thick and
pitchy darkness," he hears horrid clangor, and falls down at length
into a hall of jasper, where he meets with twelve grave men, who
encourage him, and bid him keep up his courage amid the fearful sights
he is to behold later on. At length he reaches the Purgatory:

"I approached another quarter;
There it seemed that many spirits
I had known elsewhere, were gathered
Into one vast congregation,
Where, although 'twas plain they suffered,
Still they looked with joyous faces,
Wore a peaceable appearance,
Uttered no impatient accents,
But, with moistened eyes uplifted
Towards the heavens, appeared imploring
Pity, and their sins lamenting.
This, in truth, was Purgatory,
Where the sins that are more venial
Are purged out."

He then alludes to that Bridge or "Brig o' Dread," to which allusion
will be made in another portion of our volume. As this passage is
celebrated, it is well to give it in full:

LUDOVICO. To a river did they lead me,
Flowers of fire were on its margin,
Liquid sulphur was its current,
Many-headed hydras - serpents -
Monsters of the deep were in it;
It was very broad, and o'er it
Lay a bridge, so slight and narrow
That it seem'd a thin line only.
It appear'd so weak and fragile,
That the slightest weight would sink it.
"Here thy pathway lies," they told me,
"O'er this bridge so weak and narrow;
And, for thy still greater horror,
Look at those who've pass'd before thee."
Then I look'd, and saw the wretches
Who the passage were attempting
Fall amid the sulphurous current,
Where the snakes with teeth and talons
Tore them to a thousand pieces.
Notwithstanding all these horrors,
I, the name of God invoking,
Undertook the dreadful passage,
And, undaunted by the billows,
Or the winds that blew around me,
Reached the other side in safety.
Here within a wood I found me,
So delightful and so fertile,
That the past was all forgotten.
On my path rose stately cedars,
Laurels - all the trees of Eden.

After having described some of the glories of this abode of bliss, he
relates his meeting with "the resplendent, the most glorious, the great
Patrick, the Apostle" - and was thus enabled to keep his early promise.
The poem ends with the following somewhat confused list of authorities:

"For with this is now concluded
The historic legend told us
By Dionysius, the great Carthusian,
With Henricus Salteriensis,
Cæsarius Heisterbachensis,
Matthew Paris, and Ranulphus,
Monbrisius, Marolicus Siculus,
David Rothe, and the judicious
Primate over all Hibernia,
Bellarmino, Beda, Serpi,
Friar Dymas, Jacob Sotin,
Messingham, and in conclusion
The belief and pious feeling
Which have everywhere maintained it."

From Alban Butler's notes to "Lives of the Saints," Vol. I. p. 103, we
subjoin the following:

"St. Patrick's Purgatory is a cave on an island in the Lake Dearg
(Lough Derg), in the County of Donegal, near the borders of Fermanagh.
Bollandus shows the falsehood of many things related concerning it.
Upon complaint of certain superstitious and false notions of the
vulgar, in 1497, it was stopped up by an order of the Pope. See
Bollandus, 'Tillemont,' p. 287, Alemand in his 'Monastic Hist. of
Ireland,' and Thiers, 'Hist. des. Superst.' I. 4 ed. Nov. It was soon
after opened again by the inhabitants; but only according to the
original institution, as Bollandus takes notice, as a penitential
retirement for those who voluntarily chose it, probably in imitation of
St. Patrick, or other saints, who had there dedicated themselves to a
penitential state. They usually spent several days here, living on
bread and water, lying on rushes, praying and making stations
barefoot."


THE BRIG O' DREAD.

SIR WALTER SCOTT.

In connection with the extracts which we have given from the celebrated
Drama of Calderon, the "Purgatory of St. Patrick," and in particular of
that one which relates to the passage of Ludovico over the bridge which
leads from Purgatory to Paradise, it will be interesting to quote the
following from Sir Walter Scott's "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border:"

"There is a sort of charm, sung by the lower ranks of Roman Catholics,
in some parts of the north of England, while watching a dead body
previous to interment. The tone is doleful and monotonous, and, joined
to the mysterious import of the words, has a solemn effect. The word
sleet, in the chorus, seems to be corrupted from selt or salt; a
quantity of which, in compliance with a popular superstition, is
frequently placed on the breast of a corpse. The mythologic ideas of
the dirge are common to various creeds. The Mahometan believes that, in
advancing to the final judgment seat, he must traverse a bar of red-hot
iron, stretched across a bottomless gulf. The good works of each true
believer, assuming a substantial form, will then interpose between his
feet and this 'Bridge of Dread;' but the wicked, having no such
protection, fall headlong into the abyss." Passages similar to this
dirge are also to be found in "Lady Culross' Dream," as quoted in the
second Dissertation, prefixed by Mr. Pinkerton to his select Scottish
Ballads, 2 vols. The dreamer journeys towards heaven, accompanied and
assisted by a celestial guide:

"Through dreadful dens, which made my heart aghast,
He bore me up when I began to tire.
Sometimes we clamb o'er craggy mountains high,
And sometimes stay'd on ugly braes of sand.

"They were so stay that wonder was to see;
But when I fear'd, he held me by the hand.
Through great deserts we wandered on our way -
Forward we passed a narrow bridge of trie,
O'er waters great, which hideously did roar."

Again, she supposes herself suspended over an infernal gulf:

"Ere I was ware, one gripped me at the last,
And held me high above a flaming fire.
The fire was great, the heat did pierce me sore;
My faith grew-weak; my grip was very small.
I trembled fast; my faith grew more and more."

A horrible picture of the same kind, dictated probably by the author's
unhappy state of mind, is to be found in Brooke's "Fool of Quality."
The Russian funeral service, without any allegorical imagery, expresses
the sentiment of the dirge in language alike simple and noble: "Hast
thou pitied the afflicted, O man? In death shalt thou be pitied. Hast
thou consoled the orphan? The orphan will deliver thee. Hast thou
clothed the naked? The naked will procure thee protection." -
_Richardson's "Anecdotes of Russia."_

But the most minute description of the Brig o' Dread occurs in the
legend of Sir Owain, No. XL. in the MS. collection of romances, W. 4.
I, Advocates' Library, Edinburgh. Sir Owain, a Northumbrian knight,
after many frightful adventures in St. Patrick's Purgatory, at last
arrives at the bridge, which, in the legend, is placed betwixt
Purgatory and Paradise:

"The fendes han the Knight ynome,
To a stink and water thai ben ycome,
He no seigh never er non swiche;
It stank fouler than ani hounde,
And mani mile it was to the grounde,
And was as swart as piche.

"And Owain seigh ther ouer ligge
A swithe, strong, naru brigge:
The fendes seyd tho;
Lo, Sir Knight, sestow this,
This is the brigge of Paradis,
Here ouer thou must go.

"And we the schul with stones prowe
And the winde the schul ouer blow,
And wirche the ful wo;
Thou no schalt for all this unduerd,
Bot gif thou falle a midwerd, To our fewes [1] mo.

[Footnote 1: Sir Walter Scott says probably a contraction of
"fellows."]

"And when thou art adoun yfalle,
Than schal com our felawes alle,
And with her hokes the hede;
We schul the teche a newe playe:
Thou hast served ous mani a day,
And into helle the lede.

"Owain biheld the brigge smert,
The water ther under blek and swert,
And sore him gan to drede;
For of othing he tok yeme,
Never mot, in sonne beme,
Thicker than the fendes yede.

"The brigge was as heigh as a tower,
And as scharpe as a rasour,
And naru it was also;

"And the water that ther run under,
Brend o' lighting and of thonder,
That thocht him michel wo.

"Ther nis no clerk may write with ynke,
No no man no may bithink, No no maister deuine;
That is ymade forsoth ywis,
Under the brigge of paradis Halven del the pine.

"So the dominical ous telle,
Ther is the pure entrae of helle,
Seine Poule [1] verth witnesse;
Whoso falleth of the brigge adown,
Of him nis no redempcion, Neither more nor lesse.

[Footnote 1: St. Paul.]

"The fendes seyd to the Knight tho,
'Ouer this brigge might thou nowght go,
For noneskines nede;
Fie peril sorwe and wo,
And to that stede ther thou com fro,
Wel fair we schul the lede.'

"Owain anon began bithenche,
Fram hou mani of the fendes wrenche,
God him saved hadde;
He sett his fot opon the brigge,
No feld he no scharpe egge,
No nothing him no drad.

"When the fendes yseigh tho,
That he was more than half ygo,
Loude thai gun to crie:
Allas! Allas! that he was born!
This ich night we habe forlorn
Out of our baylie." - _Minstrelsy of Scottish Border._


SHELLEY AND THE PURGATORY OF ST. PATRICK.

It will be of interest to quote the following passage from one of
Shelley's best known works, "The Cenci," of which he himself says: "An
idea in this speech was suggested by a most sublime passage in 'El
Purgatorio de San Patricio,' of Calderon."

"But I remember, Two miles on this side of the fort, the road Crosses a
deep ravine; 'tis rough and narrow, And winds with short turns down the
precipice; And in its depths there is a mighty rock Which has, from
unimaginable years, Sustained itself with terror and with toil Over the
gulf, and with the agony With which it clings seems slowly coming down;
Even as a wretched soul, hour after hour, Clings to the mass of life;
yet clinging, leans; And leaning, makes more dark the dread abyss In
which it fears to fall; beneath this crag Huge as despair, as if in
weariness, The melancholy mountain yawns."


ON A GREAT FUNERAL. [1]

[Footnote: The above lines apply with peculiar impressiveness to the
funeral of General Grant, so lately occupying public attention.]

AUBREY DE VERE.

No more than this? The chief of nations bears Her chief of sons to his
last resting-place; Through the still city, sad and slow of pace, The
sable pageant streams; and as it nears That dome, to-day a vault
funereal, tears Run down the gray-hair'd veteran's wintry face; Deep
organs sob and flags their front abase; And the snapt wand the rite
complete declares. Soul, that before thy Judge dost stand this day,
Disrobed of strength and puissance, pomp and power; O soul! defrauded
at thine extreme hour Of man's sole help from man, and latest stay,
Swells there for thee no prayer from all that host, And is this burial
but a nation's boast?


"MORTE D'ARTHUR."

TENNYSON.

Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere,
"Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?
Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?
For now I see the true old times are dead,
When every morning brought a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight.
Such times have been not since the light that led
The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.
But now the whole Round Table is dissolved
Which was an image of the mighty world;
And I, the last, go forth companionless,
And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds."

And slowly answered Arthur from the barge:
"The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways.
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within Himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul.
More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of.
Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
But now farewell!
I am going a long way
With these thou seest - if indeed I go
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)
To the island-valley of Avilion;
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow;
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard lawns
And bowery hollows crowned with summer sea,
Where I will heal me of my grievous wound."

So said he, and the barge with oar and sail
Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan.
That, fluting a wild carol, ere her death,
Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood
With swarthy webs.
Long stood Sir Bedivere
Revolving many memories, till the hull
Looked one black dot against the verge of dawn,
And on the meer the wailing died away.


GUIDO AND HIS BROTHER.

COLLlN DE PLANCY.

The brother who forgets his brother is no longer a man, he is a
monster. - Sr. John Chrysostom.

Peter the Venerable relates the story of a lord of his time, named Guy
or Guido, who had lost his life in battle; this was very common in the
Middle Ages, when the nobles were beyond all else great warriors. As
this Guido had not been able to make his last confession, he appeared
fully armed, to a priest, some time after his death.

"Stephanus," said he (that was the name of the priest), "I pray thee go
to my brother Anselm; thou shalt tell him that I conjure him to restore
an ox which I took from a peasant," naming him; "and also to repair the
damage I did to a village which did not - belong to me, by wrongfully
imposing taxes thereupon. I was unable to confess, or to expiate these
two sins, for which I am grievously tormented. As an assurance of what
I tell thee," continued the apparition, "I warn thee that, when thou
returnest to thy dwelling, thou shalt find that the money thou hast
saved to make the pilgrimage of St. James has been stolen."

The priest, on his return, actually found that his strongbox had been
broken open and his money carried off; but he could not discharge his
commission, because Anselm was absent.

A few days after, the same Guido appeared a second time, to reproach
Stephanus for his neglect. The good priest excused himself on the
impossibility of finding Anselm; but learning that he had returned to
his manor, he repaired thither, and faithfully fulfilled his
commission.

He was received very coolly. Anselm told him that he was not obliged to
do penance for the sins of his brother; and with these words he
dismissed him.

The dead man, who experienced no relief, appeared a third time, and
bemoaning his brother's harshness, he besought the worthy servant of
God to have compassion himself on his distress, and assist him in his
extremity. Stephanus, much affected, promised that he would, He
restored the price of the stolen ox, gave alms to the wronged village,
said prayers, recommended the deceased to all the good people he knew,
and then Guido appeared no more.


BERTHOLD IN PURGATORY.

COLLIN DE PLANCY.

Miseremini mei, miseremini mei, saltem vos, amici moi. - JOB xix.

A short time after the death of Charles the Bald, there is found in
Hincmar a narrative which it may be well to introduce here; it is the
journey of Berthold, or Bernold, to Purgatory in the spirit.

Berthold was a citizen of Rheims, of good life, fulfilling his
Christian duties and enjoying public esteem. He was subject to
ecstasies, or syncope, which sometimes lasted a good while. Then,
whether he had visions, or that his soul transported itself or was
transported out of his body - an effect which, is evidently produced in
our days by magnetism - he made, in his ecstasies, several journeys into
Purgatory.

Having fallen seriously ill when already well advanced in age, he
received all the sacraments which console the conscience; after which
he remained four entire days in a sort of ecstasy, during which he took
no nourishment of any kind. At the end of the fourth day he had become
so weak that there was hardly any breath in him. About midnight,
however, he begged his wife to send quickly for his confessor. He
afterwards remained motionless. But, at the end of a quarter of an
hour, he said to his wife:

"Place a seat here, for the priest is coming."

He entered the moment after, and recited the beautiful prayers for the
departing soul, to which Berthold responded clearly and exactly. After
this he had again a moment of ecstasy; and, coming out of it, he
related his several visits to Purgatory, and the commissions wherewith
he had been charged by many suffering souls.

He was conducted by a spirit, an Angel doubtless. Amongst those who
were being purified, in ice or in fire, he found Ebbon, Archbishop of
Rheims; Pardule, Bishop of Laon; Enée, Bishop of Paris, and some other
prelates, clothed in filthy garments, torn and rusty. Their faces were
wrinkled, haggard, and sallow. Ebbon besought him to ask the clergy and
people of Rheims to pray for him and his companions, who made him the
same request. He charged himself with all these commissions.

He found, farther on, or in another visit, the soul of Charles the
Bald, extended in the mud and much exhausted. The ex-king asked
Berthold to recommend him to Archbishop Hincmar and the princes of his
family, acknowledging that he was principally punished for having given
ecclesiastical benefices to courtiers and worldly laics, as had been
done by his ancestor, Charles Martel. Berthold promised to do what he
could.

Farther on, and perhaps also on another occasion, he saw Jesse, Bishop
of Orleans, in the hands of four dark spirits, who were plunging him
alternately into a well of boiling pitch and one of ice-cold water. Not
far from him, Count Othaire was in other torments. The two sufferers
recommended themselves, like the others, to the pious offices of
Berthold, who faithfully executed the commissions of the souls in pain.
He applied, on behalf of the bishops, to their clergy and people; for
King Charles the Bald, to Archbishop Hincmar. He wrote besides - for he
was a lettered man - to the relatives of the deceased monarch, making
known to them the state wherein he had seen him. He went to urge the
wife of Othaire, his vassals and friends, to offer up prayers and give
alms for him; and in a last visit which he was permitted to make, he
learned that Count Othaire and Bishop Jessé were delivered; King
Charles the Bald had reached the term of his punishment; and he saw the
Bishops Ebbon, Enée, and Pardule, who thanked him as they went forth
from Purgatory, fresh and robed in white.

After this account, whereto Berthold subjoined that his guide had
promised him some more years of life, he asked for Holy Communion,
received it, felt himself cured, left his bed on the following day, and
his life was prolonged for fourteen years.


A LEGEND OF ST. NICHOLAS.


Let us quote here, says Collin de Plancy, a good English religious
whose journey has been related by Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny,
and by Denis the Carthusian. This traveller speaks in the first person:

"I had St. Nicholas for a guide," he says; "he led me by a level road
to a vast horrible space, peopled with the dead, who were tormented in
a thousand frightful ways. I was told that these people were not
damned, that their torment would in time come to an end, and that it
was Purgatory I saw. I did not expect to find it so severe. All these
unfortunates wept hot tears and groaned aloud. Since I have seen all
these things I know well that if I had any relative in Purgatory, I
would suffer a thousand deaths to take him out of it.

"A little farther on, I perceived a valley, through which flowed a
fearful river of fire, which rose in waves to an enormous height. On
the banks of that river it was so icy cold that no one can have any
idea of it. St. Nicholas conducted me thither, and made me observe the
sufferers who were there, telling me that this again was Purgatory."

"DREAM OF GERONTIUS."

CARDINAL NEWMAN.

ANGEL. Thy judgment now is near, for we are come Into the veiled
presence of our God.

SOUL. I hear the voices that I left on earth.

ANGEL. It is the voice of friends around thy bed,
Who say the "Subvenite" with the priest.
Hither the echoes come; before the
Throne Stands the great Angel of the Agony,
The same who strengthened Him, what time He knelt
Lone in that garden shade, bedewed with blood.
That Angel best can plead with Him for all
Tormented souls, the dying and the dead.

ANGEL OF THE AGONY. Jesu! by that shuddering dread which fell on Thee;
Jesu! by that cold dismay which sicken'd Thee;



Online LibraryMrs. James SadlierPurgatory → online text (page 28 of 35)