G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

A medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation online

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effectual thought of self-correction, until at last they
grow accustomed to think of outward things alone,
and the eye of their conscience is so darkened that,
even when causes of distraction are wanting, they
shamelessly go in search of such ; as Samson, blinded
and imprisoned, turned the mill.

There are also other causes special to certain Orders ;
such as too great poverty, which compels the Brethren
to become proprietary,* each thinking to provide for
himself, since there is no provision for them in common ;
or again, too much wealth, whereby they become
carnal, proud, and vicious in many different ways.
Agam, familiarity with worldly folk, whence ariseth
matter for many temptations of the flesh and of tem-
poral things. Again, the frequent change of con-
ventual officers, t which though it be partially good,
inasmuch as the evil are thus cast forth, yet herein it
is harmful that the good, expecting soon to be displaced,
presume not to undertake the reform of the Order, or
prosper not therein ; and their rebellious subjects
strive rather to procure the deposition of the good
than duly to reform their state. Moreover, if one
official be sometimes willing to strive for reform, he
is somehow hindered by the rest, or at least hath no
help from those whose succour he needeth ; as for
example the Prior hath no help from his Abbot, or the
Abbot from his Bishop, and so forth ; wherefore the
rebellious subjects appeal to those who (as they know),
favour them in their disobedience. Again, if some in
one monastery have set their hearts upon reform, they
are sent to another monastery where they find not
what they sought.

From these and other causes Religion:|; so decayeth

* See note to Busch, extract No. 301.

t This refers specially to the Friars, who (like modern Wesleyans)
elected their officials only for brief periods.
I See Glossary.



^tZ"^ A Medieval Garner.

that it becometh not only degenerate, but even almost
desperate ; so that, unless God so ordain, it is scarce
ever otherwise reformed. But, because all things work
together for good to those that love God, that which is
not done in general may be done in particular. Each
Brother who would profit [spiritually], turneth the loss
of others to his own gain ; and, by God's grace, he
wresteth to his own profit all the paths of others' decay.
And, even as the glory of the Elect will be all the
greater because, being mingled in companionship with
the Reprobate, they yet follow not their example, which
is to them a matter of temptation and of exercise in
virtue, so also the good Religious v/ould never have
deserved so much at God's hands, if the defects of
lukewarm Brethren had not impelled them assiduously
to gird their loins to the manifold struggle of virtue.
Wherefore the Apostle, among his other deserts wherein
he excellently boasteth himself as the servant of Christ,
numbereth perils among false brethren, which to him
and to other good men are a manifold occasion of virtue.
First, because their evil examples supply the righteous
with a matter of temptation, and thus with a cause of
victory. Secondly, these are kindled with a righteous
zeal at the others' vices, and burn to see such stumbling-
blocks to the weaker brethren. Thirdly, they pity
their wretchedness, as the mother pitieth her son hasting
to perdition. Fourthly, they labour to correct them
by good examples and warnings and prayers and
benefits. Fifthly, they bear patiently with such froward
manners, and with the injuries which these others
inflict upon them for their righteousness. Sixthly, the
companionship of such bringeth upon them the scorn
of those who are without, as though they themselves
also were such. Seventhly, they become more fearful
and therefore humbler, and are the more anxious not
to fall. Eighthly, they thank God the more heartily,
Who of His loving kindness hath defended them from
becoming such. Ninthly, their own virtues shine the
more clearly, and with a fairer radiance, from the
juxtaposition of the wicked. These and other good
things God bringeth forth from the companionship of



The Sheep and the Goats. 233

good and evil. For, even as the accidental joy of the
good is heaped to full measure by the sight of the pains
of the damned,* so also in the Church the uprightness of
the good is in some fashion adorned by the deformity of
the unrighteous ; for so hath that heavenly wisdom
disposed which leaveth nothing disorderly in any realm.

* It was a commonplace of the scholastic theology that the joys of
the blessed in heaven would be increased by the sight of their reprobate
brethren writhing in hell ; see the references in From St. Francis to
Dante, 2nd Edition, p. 366, and the next extract here following from
Bishop Thomas of Chantimpre.




162.— ctje ^t)eep anD tfic (^oats.

(Thomas Cantimpratauus. De Apibu.% lib. ii, c.f. 54, p. 440).

HE sixth and last cause of joy [to the blessed
spirits in heaven] will be to behold the
damned on their left hand, to whom (when
He hath set them on His left) the Judge
will say, " Depart, ye accursed, into ever-
lastmg fire ! " Concerning these, as the Psalmist
saith, " The just shall rejoice when he shall see the
revenge." And Esaias saith, in the person of Christ,
" They," (that is the saints) " shall go out and see the
carcasses of the men that have transgressed against
me : . . . and they shall be a loathsome sight to all
flesh." Yet some simple folk are wont to wonder that
the saints, at the Last Judgment, will be in no wise
disturbed at the sight of the damnation of their parents
and friends ; but all faithful souls will account this their
astonishment as mere folly, seeing that they know
how the saints, confirmed in their perpetual exultation,
can be touched by no trouble or grief. For if, even in
this present life, it is required in every perfect Christian
that he should become united to and accordant with
the divine justice in all things, how can we marvel if
we now believe of the saints in glory that they are not
grieved even at the saddest of sights among earthly
men ? [He then goes on to relate how the Blessed
Marie d'Oignies, having been certified in a vision of
her ovm mother's damnation, ceased thenceforth to
weep for her.]




334 A Medieval Garner.

The following extract is from the Meditations on the Life of Christ,
generally attributed to St. Bonaventura in the Middle Ages and printed
in most editions of his works. It is however attributed in the Con-
formities, no doubt correctly, to a later Franciscan, Brother Joannes de
Cauhbus, who " wrote according to St. Bonaventura," but concerning
whom nothing more is known. It admirably exempKfies that graceful
intermixture of Bible history and legend upon which so much of medieval
art was based.

i63. - a Cbtistmas Pageant

when the term of nine months was approach-
ing, there went forth an imperial decree
that the whole world should be registered,
each in his own city. When therefore
Joseph wished to go to his own city of
Bethlehem, and knew that the time of his wife's delivery
was at hand, he took her with him. Our Lady therefore
went again on this long journey (for Bethlehem is hard
by Jerusalem, at a distance of some five or six miles).
They therefore took with them an ox and an ass, and
went as poor cattle-dealers. So when they were come
to Bethlehem, seeing that they were poor, they could
find no lodging, for many had come together on the
same business. Think pitifully of our Lady, and
behold her so young and tender (for she was of the age
of fifteen years), wearied with her long journey and
conversing with shame among those folk, seeking a
place of rest and finding none, for all sent her and her
companion away ; and thus they were coriipelled to
take shelter in a certain covered way, where men took
refuge in rainy weather.* There it may be that Joseph,
who was a master-carpenter, enclosed himself after a
fashion. But now consider with the utmost diligence
all that I shall say, more especially because I purpose
to tell things which were revealed and shown by our
Lady herself, as I heard them from a trustworthy
saint of our Order, to whom (as I believe) they were
revealed. When her hour was come, which was one
Sunday midnight, the Virgin rose and leaned against

* It is evident that the writer imagined Bethlehem built like an
Italian city, with covered arcades along the streets.



A Christmas Pageant. 335

a certain pillar which stood there, and Joseph sat
sadly by, mourning perchance that he could not prepare
all that was fitting . . . And the Virgin Mother,
stooping forthwith, raised her Babe and gently
embraced Him, then she laid Him in her lap and,
taught by the Holy Ghost, began to anoint Him all
over with the milk of her breast, which was filled from
Heaven ; after which she wrapped Him in her own
head-veil and laid Him in the manger. And now the
ox and the ass bent their knees and stretched their
heads over the manger, breathing through their nostrils
as though they knew by the light of reason that the
Babe, so miserably clad, needed their v/armth at a
time of such bitter cold. His mother, for her part,
bowed her knees in adoration, and gave thanks to God,
saying, " Lord and Holy Father, I thank Thee that
Thou hast given me Thy Son ; and I adore Thee, God
Everlasting, and Thee Son of the living God and of me."
In like manner did Joseph adore Him ; and taking the
ass's saddle and drawing from it a little cushion of
wool or rough cloth, he laid it by the manger that our
Lady might sit thereon. She therefore set herself
doAvn thereon, and laid the saddle under her elbow ;
and thus sat the Lady of the World, holding her face
over the manger and fixing her eyes with all the desire
of her heart upon her dearly-beloved Son. Thus far
by revelation, which after she had declared our Lady
vanished away ; but an Angel stayed behind and
told the Brother great songs of praise which he repeated
to me, who have been able neither to learn nor to
write them. . . . So, when our Lord was thus born,
a multitude of angels stood there and adored their
God ; then they went in all haste to the shepherds
hard by, perchance at a mile's distance, to whom they
told how and where our Lord was born ; after which
they ascended to heaven with songs of rejoicing,
announcing the glad news to their fellow-citizens also.
Wherefore the whole court of heaven, filled with joy,
made great feast and praise ; and, having offered
thanks to God, all the angels of heaven came according
to their Orders, turn by^turn, to see the face of their



33 6 A Medieval Garner.

Lord God ; where, worshipping Him with all reverence,
and His Mother likewise, they quired unto Him with
songs of praise. For which of them, hearing this news,
would have stayed behind in heaven, and not visit his
Lord thus humbly set on earth ? No such pride could
have entered into any angel's heart ; wherefore the
Apostle saith : " And again, when He bringeth in the
j&rst begotten into the world. He saith : ' And let all
the angels of God worship Him.' " I think it sweet to
meditate thus of the angels, howsoever the truth may
stand.



164.— Lion Canting.

(Fol. 46).

Villard de Honnecourt was probably the architect of Notre Dame de
Cambrai, the reconstruction of which was begun in 1230 and finished
in 1250. The following extract is from fol. 46 of his sketch-book,
which by a fortunate chance has survived to the present day, and
was published in facsimile by Lassus in 1858. His notes show that he
specially studied the cathedrals of Reims and Laon, where he records
his high admiration of that tower with its sculptured oxen which still
looks out over the plain. He was also on the Rhine, at Lausanne, and
in Hungary, where he probably built one of the churches of this date
which show strong French iniluence. Apart from strictly technical
points, his sketch-book shows an interest in such miscellaneous matters
as perpetual motion, mechanical toys, trigonometry, engines of war,
elementary surgery, and zoology. Its introduction runs (fol. 2) :
" Villard de Honnecourt saluteth you, and beseecheth that all those
who labour at the divers kinds of works contained in this book may
pray for his soul and keep him in remembrance ; for in this book you
may find great help to instruct yourselves in the principles of masonry
and woodwork. You will find also the method of portraiture and
draughtmanship, after the laws and principles of geometry."

It- -

jOW will I speak to you of the instruction of
the lion. He who would teach the lion hath
two dogs. When he would fain make the
lion do anything, he commandeth him to do
it, and if the lion murmur, then he beateth
the dogs ; whereof the lion misdoubteth him sore,
when he seeth the dogs beaten ; wherefore he refraineth
his courage and doeth that which hath been com-









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23^ A Medieval Garner.

manded. And if the lion be wroth, thereof will I
speak no whit, for then would he obey neither for good
nor evil usage. And know well that this lion here was
portrayed from the life.



For a brilliant popular account of Koger Bacon see J. R. Green's
Short History, chap. III., sect. IV. ; for a far more authoritative esti-
mate of his work, Rashdall's Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages,
vol. II., pp. 522 fi. Bacon, in Dr. Rashdall's words, was " the most
astonishing phenomenon of the medieval schools , , , unlike other
medieval thinkers, orthodox or unorthodox, he saw that the study of
Greek was the true key to the meaning of Aristotle, and a knowledge of
the Bible in the original the true foundation for a fruitful study of
Theology. All the characteristic ideas of the sixteenth century are
held in solution, as it were, in the writings of Roger Bacon, mixed up no
doubt with much that is redolent of the age in which he lived ; but, of
all the anticipations of modern ways of thinking with which his works
abound, the most remarkable is his plan of educational reform."

After twenty years of study and experiments, during which he
expended on books and instruments the equivalent of nearly £40,000
modern money, Bacon joined the Franciscan Order, a step which he
evidently lived to repent. His superiors forbade him to publish any-
thing, and he would have died unknown but for the intervention of
Clement IV., who had heard of him before his elevation to the papacy,
and who in 1266 sent a letter bidding him write down his ideas " without
delay, and with all possible secrecy, without regard to any contrary
precept of your Superiors or any constitution of your Order." In less
than two years Bacon wrote three works extending to some 600 folio
pages of print — the Opus Majus, Opus Minus, and Opus Tertium. In
1271 he followed these up with the Compendium Studii Philosophiae,
from which the following extracts are taken. (Ed. J. S, Brewer, Rolls
Series, 1859.)

165.— JRopr TBacon'^ De0pair.

(p. 398).

jEVERTHELESS, seeing that we consider not
these hindrances from our youth upwards,
but neglect them altogether, therefore we are
lost with infinite error, nor can we enjoy the
profit of wisdom in the church and in the
three other regions whereof I have spoken above.*

* i.e. the conduct of the State, the conversion of the heathen, and
the repression of reprobate sinners (p. 397).




Roger Bacon's Despair. 339

For these hindrances bring it about that men believe
themselves to stand in the highest glory of wisdom, so
that there was never so great an appearance of wisdom
nor so busy exercise of study in so many branches and
in so many parts of the world, as in the last forty years. *
For Doctors, and especially Doctors of Divinity, are
scattered abroad in every city and town and borough,
especially by means of the two Student-Orders ; and
this hath been only for the last forty years, more or
less. Yet the truth is that there hath never been so
great ignorance and such deep error, as I will most
clearly prove later on in this present treatise, and as is
already manifestly shown by facts. For more sins
reign in these days than in any past age ; and sin is
incompatible with wisdom. Let us look upon all
conditions in the world, and consider them diligently ;
everywhere we shall find boundless corruption, and
first of all in the Head. For the Court of Rome, which
once was ruled by God's wisdom, and should always be
so ruled, is now debased by the constitutions of lay
Emperors, made for the governance of lay-folk and
contained in the code of civil law. The Holy See is
torn by the deceit and fraud of unjust men. Justice
perisheth, all peace is broken, infinite scandals are
aroused. This beareth its fruit in utterly perverse
manners ; pride reigneth, covetousness burneth, envy
gnaweth upon all, the whole [Papal] Court is defamed
of lechery, and gluttony is lord of all , . . if this be so
in the Head, what then is done among the members ?
Let us see the prelates ; how they run after money,
neglect the cure of souls, promote their nephews, and
other carnal friends, and crafty lawyers who ruin all
by their counsels ; for they despise students in
philosophy and theology, and hinder the two Orders,
who come forward to serve the Lord without hire, from
living in freedom and working for the salvation of
souls. Let us consider the religious Orders : I exclude

* i.e. since the rise of the Franciscan and Dominican Friars, the
Student-Orders, as he calls them below, in contradistinction to the
monks, who had already grown careless of learning. Cf. Richard de
Bury's Philohiblion.



340 A Medieval Garner.

none from what I say. See how far they are fallen,
one and all, from their right state ; and the new Orders
[of Friars] are already horribly decayed from their first
dignity. The whole clergy is intent upon pride,
lechery, and avarice ; and wheresoever clerks are
gathered together, as at Paris and Oxford, they
scandalize the whole laity with their wars and quarrels
and other vices. Princes and barons and knights
oppress and rob each other, and trouble their subjects
with infinite wars and exactions, wherein each striveth
to despoil the other even of duchies and kmgdoms, as
we see in these days. For it is notorious that the
King of France hath most unjustly despoiled the
King of England of that great territory ; and Charles
[of Anjou] hath even now crushed the heirs of Frederick
[II.] in mighty battles. Men care not what is done
nor how, whether by right or wrong, if only each may
have his own will ; meanwhile they are slaves to
gluttony and lechery and the wickedness of other sins.
The people, harassed by their princes, hate them and
keep no fealty save under compulsion ; moveover,
corrupted by the evil examples of their betters, they
oppress and circumvent and defraud one another, as
we see everyivhere with our own eyes ; and they are
utterly given over to lechery and gluttony, and are
more debased than tongue can tell. Of merchants and
craftsmen there is no question, since fraud and deceit
and guile reign beyond all measure in all their words
and deeds.

There is another measure of the effect of this cor-
ruption. For the faith of Christ hath been revealed to
the world, and certified already by saints without
number . . . And we have our Lord Jesus Christ in
the sacrament of the altar ; everywhere and daily we
make it at our will, in accordance with that His
precept, " Do this in remembrance of Me " ; we eat
and drink Him, and are turned into Him, to become
Gods and Christs . . . Certainly if men had faith,
reverence, and devotion to this sacrament as they are
in duty bound, then they would not corrupt them-
selves with so many errors and sins and wickednesses.



Roger Bacon^s Despair. 341

but would know all wisdom and wholesome truth in
this life : wherefore, seeing that they here play the
ass [hie asininant], and many are infirm and weak and
sleep (to use the Apostle's words) therefore they must
needs become infirm and weak in all that region of
wisdom, and sleep the sleep of death, and play the ass
beyond common estimation ; for this [sacrament] is
at the end of the glory and goodness and comeliness of
wisdom, and hath more certain proofs than any other
kind . . . Since therefore we know but little in so
noble and so plain a matter, therefore all other profits
able Avisdom must needs be put farther away from u-
than tongue may tell.

The third consideration from effects is taken by
comparing our state with that of the ancient
Philosophers ; who, though they were without that
quickening grace which maketh man worthy of eternal
life, and whereinto we enter at baptism, yet lived
beyond all comparison better than we, both in all
decency and in contempt of the world, with all its
delights and riches and honours ; as all men may read
in the works of Aristotle, Seneca, Tully, Avicenna,
Alfarabius, Plato, Socrates, and others ; and so it was
that they attained to the secrets of wisdom and found
out all knowledge. But we Christians have discovered
nothing worthy of those philosophers, nor can we even
understand their wisdom ; which ignorance of ours
springs from this cause, that our morals are worse than
theirs. For it is impossible that wisdom should co-
exist with sin, but she requireth perfect virtue, as I will
show later on. But certain it is that, if there were so
much wisdom in the world as men think, these evils
would not be committed . . . and therefore, when we
see everywhere (and especially among the clergy) such
corruption of life, then their studies must needs be
corrupt. Many wise men — considering this, and pon-
dering on God's wisdom and the learning of the saints
and the truth of histories, and not only the prophecies
of Holy Scripture but also such salutary predictions
as those of the Sibyls and Merlin and Aquila and Festo
and many other wise men — have reckoned that the



342 A Medieval Garner.

times of Antichrist are at hand in these days of ours.*
Wherefore wickedness must needs be uprooted, and
the Elect of God must appear ; or else one most blessed
Pope will first come, who shall remove all corruptions
from University and Church and elsewhere, that the
world may be renewed, and the fulness of the Gentiles
may enter in, and the remnants of Israel be converted
to the faith . . . God indeed, in His infinite goodness
and longsuffering of wisdom, doth not at once punish
mankind, but delayeth his vengeance until the iniquity
be fulfilled, so that it may not and should not be longer
endured . . . But now, seeing that the measure of
man's wickedness is full, it must needs be that some
most virtuous Pope and most virtuous Emperor shall
arise to purge the Church with the double sword of
the spirit and the flesh ; or else that such purgation
shall take place through Antichrist ; or, thirdly,
through some other tribulation, as the discord of
Christian princes, or the Tartars and Saracens and
other kings of the East, as divers scriptures and mani-
fold prophecies tell us. For there is no doubt whatever
among wise men, but that the Church must be purged :
yet whether in the first fashion, or the second, or the
third, they are not agreed, nor is there any certain
definition on this head.

(P. 425.) The second principal cause of error in the
present pursuit of wisdom is this : that for forty years
past certain men have arisen in the universities who
have created themselves masters and doctors in
theology and philosophy, though they themselves have
never learned anything of any account ; nor will they
or can they learn by reason of their position, as I
will take care to show by argument, in all its length
and breadth, within the compass of the following
pages. And, albeit I grieve and pity these as much
as I can, yet truth prevaileth over all, and therefore
I will here expound at least some of those things which
are done publicly and are known to all men, though

* The next greatest English friar of this age, Adam de Marisco, is
even more emphatic on this subject, and more pessimistic generally,
than Bacon,



Roger Bacon's Despair. 343

few turn their hearts to regard either this or other
profitable considerations, by reason of those causes of
error which I here set forth, and whereby almost all
men are basely blinded. These are boys who are
mexperienced in the knowledge of themselves and of
the world and of the learned languages, Greek and
Hebrew, which (as I will prove later on) are necessary
to study ; they are ignorant also of all parts and
sciences of the world's philosophy and of wisdom, when
they so presumptuously enter upon the study of



Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonA medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation → online text (page 29 of 61)