Marcus Tullius. 1n Cicero.

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day the proud monuments of gothic and feudal grandeur.
Men's heads were made to think, but theirs to bear burdens.
They were hewers of wood and drawers of water for tlieir su-
periors, who should have borne their sorrows and upheld them
when they fell. God gives to a few more excellent gifts of
mind, or body, or social position, or wealth, not that they may
thereby oppress their brethren, but that they may comfort and
bless them. There are but two scales in the balance of soci-
ety, the Rulers and the Ruled. As the one rises the other
falls. In that age the world was far less rich in the comforts
and conveniencies of life, than it is now. Therefore when we
admire at the ruler's scale so well loaded, we are to remember
also the empty scale of the poor, who could not tell their tale
to other times, except by implication. When we admire the
possessions of the powerful, the castles and cathedrals of those
days, it may be profitable to remember, how wretched were the
cabins in which the builders slept, and with what reluctant and
compulsory toil, with what privation, hunger, and wretchedness
this magnificence must have been bought. The eyes of the
rich were fed with the bread of the poor. Men were left na-
ked and comfortless that grandeur might pile up its marble and
mortar. The needy asked bread and literally a stone was
given them. The name of a tyrant who harried a province,
and whose character was well imaged by the ferocious beasts
he bore on his scutcheon, comes down to our times coupled
with the epithet of Pious, or Gentle, because, forsooth, he
built a church, or endowed a convent, with the fragments of
rapacity that fell from his table ; while the men who paid for it
all with pain and toil and bloody sweat, lie forgotten in the
ditches and fens where they labored and died. At that time
the Christian maxim, '^ we that are strong ought to bear the in-



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8 The Lift of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, [March,

firmiiies of the weak," — a maxim which meant something Co
Paul and Jesus, as their lives attest, was regarded far less than
even now. Such was the simple lot of the low-bom and
poor ; their " puddle-blood " flowed at the mercy of each no-
ble of haughty head and rapacious hand. But their prayers and
the cry of their blood wen( up to the God of justice, who an-
swered in the peasant wars, and similar convulsions from the
twelfth century to the nineteenth. Such was their lot, a life
of subjection, hardships, and bondage.

But for the other and less numerous class, two arenas were
open, the World and the Church. There seems to have been
Qo middle groimd between the life of a Nobleman and that of an
Ecclesiastic. Fortune met well-born men at their entrance into
being, and said, ^< choose which you will, the Church or the
World. I have no other alternative." The life of an Elocle-
siastic, and the life of a Noble ; the cloister and the camp,
what a world lies between them ! On the one side celibacy,
&sting, and poverty, and prayer ;* on the other riot, debauche-
ry, wealth, and sin in general. Ambition pointed, and perhaps
equally to both, for the Cardinal was often greater than the
King, and the Pope was second only to the Almighty. Every
lawyer in England, it is said, hopes one day to be Lord Chan-
cellor, or at least Judge ; and so, perhaps, every priest in the
twelfth century hoped to be Pope, Cardinal, or Bishop at the
very least. So young men of the noblest families rushed into
convents, just as others rushed into camps. To the lasting

* It may be said cdihacy was not universal at this time among the
clergy, and it is certain the laws of that period are conflicting on this
point In some countries, as Hungary and Ireland, |rreat freedom pre-
vailed in this respect Priests and Deacons, even Bishops, bad ^ehr
wives. At the council of Gran, 1114, a singular decree was passed.
•* Presbyteris uxores, — runs the original, — quas legitimis ordinibus
accesserint, moderatius habendas, praevisa fragilitate, indulsimus."
Synod Strigonicus. C. xxxi. p. 57, cited in Schroeckh's Kirchenges-
chkhte, Vd. xxviL p. 203. (Leipsig, 1796.) Bat Bernard complaraB
bitterly that men with wives, — tnrt uxorati^ — bad got into the chvich.
Even the Hungarian clergy gradually lost their freedom. Yet in 1273,
Bishop Henry of Luttich had fourteen chQdren born in a little less
than two years. See in Schroeckh, b. c. the gradual progress of celib-
acy in the church. But out of this partial e?il there mw « geneiml
benefit When there was no legitimate heir, there could be no ^ririt-
ual aristocracy growing up to usurp dominion over the church, as (he
nobles had done over the state. **The wrath of man shall praise
thee,** says tiie Psalmist, ^ and the remnant of wrath tiion wilt re-
vtrain."



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l€4l.] A Chapter out of the Middle Ages. 9

praise of the Catholic Church, be it said, that she knew nothing
of difference between rich and poor ; at least, nothing in theory,
though rich men daily bought and sold bene6ces, and that with-
out concealment in the Pope's court. The Church was the last
bulwark of Humanity in the dark ages. She kept in awe the
rude barons and barbarous kings, and nestled the poor and for-
saken comfortably in her i)06om. In her eyes every one bom
at all was well bom. Hence we 6nd a cobler in the chair of St.
Peter, and that cobler Gregory the Seventh, of whom all Europe
stood in awe. The Church, thus opening for the poor the road to
wisdom and power, unconsciously bettered their condition at
lai^e. For bishops, cardinals, and popes, elevated from the
servile class, having no legitimate issue to provide for, or enrich
with power and place transmitted to them, felt strongly the
natural, instinctive love of their native class, and watched over it
with a jealous care. The history of Thomas a Becket, and his
sovereign, is a striking instance of this kind, where each repre-
sents a class.

The church and the camp were the two fields open before
the wealthy and well-bom. But in Bernard's time, a new
and distinct arena was also opened ; that of letters. A great
enthusiasm for literature and philosophy sprang up in the elev-
enth century, as the world began to awake from its long sleep,
and rub its drowsy eyes. Its starting point was the ancient
philosophy, and the Organum of Boethius. In the twelfth
century, the brilliant success of Abelard was both a cause and
an effect of the new movement.*^ With him the scholastic phi-
losophy began, as M. Cousin thinks.

After Bernard's companions found the camp had no charms
*^ to shake the settled purpose of his soul," they tried him with
the life of letters, in which his bright spirit found activity and
joy. But this attempt also was fmitless. The image of his
mother soared above him, and forbade the unholy life. His
livelv fancy brought her from the grave, in visions, and in his
waking hours ; she reminded him of her past example, and
seemed to chide him for bis faltering faith. Once, as he was
travellbg alone, to see his brothers in the Burgundian camp at
Grancy, thb thought came over him, and the image of his



* On the number of Abelard^s pupils, and his influence, see ouvrages
inedites d'Abelard, etc. ; par M. Victor Cousin. Paris. 1836. Mro-
ducUon^ p. iL seq.

VOL. XXX. — 3d 8. VOL. XII. NO. I. 2



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10 Life of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, [Mtrch,

mother filled his soul. He turned aside into a church to pray
for strength to keep his resolve and be a monk. His prayer
was granted. A voice said to him, Qui audit dicat " Veni."
After this the difficulty was all over. He persuaded others
to follow his example. Among these were his uncle, Galdric,
a rich and celebrated man, and some of his brothers. But
Guido, his oldest brother, mocked at Bernard's resolution, and
called it frivolous. Guido, "a distinguished man, bound by
wedlock, and more strongly rooted in the world than the others,
stoutly refused the monastic life, when urged by the young en-
thusiast to accept it. Well he might shudder at the thought,
for his married life seems to have been happy, and the change
proposed involved a separation from his wife and children, and
imprisonment, — such it really was, — amid monks as cheer-
less and stupid as they were superstitious. " Yet," says Abbot
William, " at first hesitating, but weighing the matter continu-
ally, and thinking it over and over, he consented to the change,
on condition that his wife were willing. But this contingency
seemed scarcely possible to a young woman of noble birth, the
nK)ther of several daughters, at that time of tender age." But
Bernard, nothing daunted at the difficulty, tenderly promised
Guido that " his wife would soon consent or die." To bring
about one of these pleasant alternatives, " the Lord gave the hus-
band this manly counsel, that he should abjure all he seemed to
have in the world, lead a rustic life, earning with his own hands
the subsistence of himself and wife, whom it was not lawful for
him to divorce against her will." This ingenious counsel, so
pleasantly attributed to the Holy Ghost, succeeded like a charm.
The wife very naturally fell sick, and remembering the predic-
tion, and finding " how hard it was to kick against the pricks,"
begged Bernard's forgiveness, and promised all that he required
of her. Accordingly she was separated from her husband, and
took the usual conventual vow, which she kept " until this day,"
says the Abbot, for he wrote while she and Bernard were both
still living.

The other brother, Gerhard, still held out, " and loved the
world." " Nothing but suffering will ever convince you," said
Bernard. " But the day is coming," continued he, putting his
finger on his brother's side, " and it comes quickly, when the
lance plunged in your breast, shall open to your heart a way
for my counsels, which now you despise." " No sooner said
than done," proceeds the biographer, " for after a few days, he



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184L] A OuxpitT out of the Middle Ages. 1 1

was wounded in just the spot marked by the priestly finger, and
taken prisoner besides. Then, fearing death, he exclaimed,
" I am a monk, a Cistercian monk." JBeraard was sent for to
comfort him in prison. But he refused to go, saying, he ^' knew
all this before, and the wound was not unto death, but unto
life." And " it was even so," for, contrary to expectation, the
wound healed of a sudden. However, he was still a captive,
and kept closely in ward. But one day, as he grew continu-
ally more and more desirous of the monastic life, he heard a
voice more than mortal, as be lay wakeful in his dungeon, say-
ing to him, *^ This day slialt thou be set free," and about night-
fall, by accident, as it were, he felt of his chains, and they fell
off his hands with a heavy clank ; still the door was shut, and a
crowd of beggars stood before it, not to mention the guards.
But the bar fell back, and the door opened at his approach.
The beggars, astonished at the prodigy, fled without speaking.
It was the hour of evening prayers when he drew nigh the
church, walking slowly, for some of the chains still clung to
him. Bernard espied his brother, and said ; " Brother Ger-
hard, have you come ? There is still something left that you
may hear." But " his eyes .were holden, so that he did not
know what was going on," until Bernard led him into the
church. " Thus was he freed from captivity and love of the
world."

After this, Bernard '^ went to and fro upon the earth, and
walked up and down in it," seeking to bring souls into the
monastic fold. He compelled many to come in. His word was
80 taking, his eloquence so persuasive, — for he knew the way
equally to the heart of the clown and the courtier, — that when
he was to preach in public or private, wise " mothers shut up
their sons at home, wives kept back their husbands from hear-
ing, for the Holy Ghost gave such voice and power to his words,
that scarce any tie could restrain those who listened." All
whom he converted were, like the first Christians, *' of one
heart and one mind." *



* The mcnnastic Ufs was then held in very high esteein. Bernard caUs
if a secood baptism )" *'it renders its professors like the an^rels, and
unlike men." It could wash out the deepest sins. See Neander's
Heilige Bernhard und sein Zeitaltcr, &.c. Berlin. 1813. p. ], 42,
note 2. But be mentions Norbert advising Count Theobald of Cham-
pa^rne not to become a monk, because he wtm already so oaefiil to the
poor and down-trodden.



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12 Lift of St. Bernard of Clairvanx, [March,

His biographer gives a glowing account of his noviciate, and
holds him up as an ideal of austerity, to be looked up to and
imitated by all tyros in the convents. He not only resisted the
desire of the senses, but turned the senses themselves out of
doors. " When, with the interior sense, he began to feel the
sweetness of divine love breathe gently over him, he feared lest
the secret sense within should be darkened by the senses from
without, so he scarce gave them enough to keep them in being.
The * breathings of divine love ' were at 6rst but a momentary
impression, but soon became a constant habit, and the habit at
length, nature itself." " Absorbed entirely in the Spirit, all his
hopes directed inward to Grod, his mind entirely occupied with
spiritual meditation, seeing he saw not ; hearing he heard not ;
eating he tasted not ; and scarce felt anything with the corpo-
real sense. After passing a year in the noviciate's cell, he
hardly knew when he went out whether it had a roof or not."
This was deemed the perfection of a monk's life. He ate only
to sustain the body, and knew not whether he fed on bread or
stones, or whether his drink was water or wine. '^ He went to
his dinner as to the rack." Nemesis never sleeps even in a monk's
cell, so nature took sweet revenge, and racked him all his life
long in every limb of h'ls attenuated frame. However, he did
two good things, and that daily. He worked hard with his
hands, and walked in the woods, where he used afterwards to
confess he found his best thoughts, and had no teachers but the
birch trees and the oaks. '^ Trust my experience," he after-
wards wrote to Henry of Murdoch, a celebrated teacher of
speculative theology, " thou wilt find in the woods somewhat
more than in books ; wood and stone shall teach thee what thou
canst not learn from masters." ♦ The cheerful, though serious
countenance of Nature, we should fancy, might shame even a
, monk into a rational life ; but man outgrows nothing so reluc-
tantly as the religious prejudice of his times, and it b given to
but few to take a single step in advance of their age. But one
day, while exhausted with very slight labor in reaping, Bernard
felt a natural shame at the ardficid weakness of nis body ; he
turned aside, and '^ besought the Lord for strength," which was
given, miraculously, as the Abbot thbks, and he reaped before
them all.

* Boalau Hint {Jnivenritatis Parisiensia, torn. 3, p. 162, cited in Ne*
Aoder, L c. p. 45.



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1841.] A Ckapterout of the Middle Ages. 13

On entering the monastic state, he had not chosen, as many
did, a cloister, where the buxom ascetics revelled in everything
but self-mortification. He chose the cloister at Citeaux, a wild
quarter of the bishopric of Chalons sur la Saone. The number
of monks increased so rapidly, through his efforts and austere
reputation, that the buildings of the establishment required to be
enlarged, and new ones erected. A new cloister, also, was estab-
lished in another place. This was the celebrated cloister of
Clairvaux, a wild, desolate glen, formeriy named the Valley of
Wormwood,* on account of a den of robbers in it, as some say ;
but after the cloister was built, it was called Clairvaux, — the
fair valley. In three years from its foundation, Bernard was
appointed Abbot of Clairvaux, and ordained to that office by
the famous William de Champeaux, whose skill in dialectics
took nothing iGnom the jolly roundness of his face. The spec-
tators laughed or admired at the contrast between the bbhop
and the monk. Elstablished in his new office, his example ani-
mated the whole cloister. ** You might see there, a weak and
languid man, solicitous for all, but careless of himself ; obedient
to sdl in all things, but scarce doing anything for himself. Not
deeming hb own concerns of prior importance to others, he
strove chiefly to avoid sparing his own body. So he made his
spiritual studies the more rigorous. His body, ^attenuated by
various infirmities, was still more worn down by fast and watch-
ing without intermissk>n. He prayed standing day and night,
till his knees, weakened by fasting, and his feet, swollen with
extreme toil, refused to sustain his body. For a long time, in
secrecy he wore sackcloth next hb skin, but when the fact was
accidentally discovered he cast it off, and returned to hb com-
mon dress. His food was bread and milk ; water, in which
pulse had been boiled, or such thin water gruel as men make
for little children." f Physicians who saw him, or Ibtened to
hb eloquence, wondered at the strength in his' emaciated fi^me,
as much as if they had seen a lamb drawing the plough.

The monkbh admirer relates that Gerhard was a sort of but-



* Nieolaus Hacqaeville thus poetically celebrates the charms of the
place;

Abdita vallb erat, medib in montibus, alto
Et nemore, et viridi tunc adoperta rubo,
Hanc claram vallem merito dizere priorea,
Mutamnt nomen vallis amara tuum, etc.

De Laudibua Btrnardif prefixed to his works, fol. 24, 1, of this edition.

f Vita, S. Bernardi, 1. c i. c. viiL



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14 hift of St. Bernard of Ckdrvaux, [Marchi

ler in the establishment, and as winter began to set in, be natu-
rally, in the way of his vocation, complained of the slender
provision, both in money and victuals, laid in for the season.
To this complaint Bernard returned no reply. But being told,
that no less a sum than eleven pounds was absolutely needed,
and that for the present emergency, he sent away his brother
and betook himself to prayer. While at his devotion a mes-
senger arrives, and says that a woman stood at the gate, asking
to see him. She fell down at his feet, and gave him twelve
pounds to pray for her husband, then dangerously ill. " Go in
peace," said Bernard to the woman, '^ thou shalt find thy bus*
band safe and sound." She went home and found as he had
foretold. A similar case often occurred, says William, and
unexpected help came from the Lord, whenever common means
failed. It is difficult to estimate the power of prejudice and
superstition to blind men's eyes, but each of the then contem-
porary biographers of Bernard ascribes to him a similar miracu-
lous power, and relates the wonderful cures he effected, on men,
women, and children.*

Weak as Bernard was in body, and secluded from the world,
in that remote valley, he yet took an active part in all the great
concerns of church and state, not only in France but out of it.
He was present at councils, and men journeyed from far to ask
his advice. He lifted his voice indignantly to rebuke the wan-
tonness and pride of the clergy ; wantonness and pride not sur-
passed by the nobles of Sardanapalus's court. He declaimed
with the sternest vehemence against the great, who trod the
humble down into the dust. He labored to extend his own
order, and still more to defend the church from the assaults of
the temporal powers, no light work, nor lightly undertaken.
At this time the moral state of the clergy was bad, veiy bad.
Men of loose habits and no religion pressed into the lucrative
offices of the church, through the influence of some prince or
count.



• Neander tells a singular story, illustrating this peculiarity of the
age. One Norbert, a rough, tempestuous, destructive personage, was
once riding in a hunting- expedition, and a violent storm eame on.
His horse was struck down by lightning, and he lay senseless nearly an
hour. When he recovered, and saw how providentially he had escaped
death, a shudder came over him, at the tnought of his past life, from
which he was so near bein? summoned to the bar of God, that he re-
solved to found a religious institution, and kept his vow, and was one of
the most distinguished reformers of his age. 1. c. p. 44, seq.



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1841.] A GiapUr out of the Middle Ages. 15

"Of other care they little reckoning took,
Than how to scramble at the shearer's feast,
And shove away the worthy bidden guest."

Their office was gain. The Pope might make laws often as
he listed against simony, extravagance, licentiousness, and all
other clerical sins of the age ; cunning men found means to
break them all, and live unconcerned, or at least unmolested.
The Popes themselves were partakers of their crimes. " The
stench of the Roman court," says William of Paris, "rising
from this dunghill of usury, robbery, and simony, went up a
hateful steam, to the very clouds." The vice of the clergy
reached its height about the middle of the twelfth century. In
England alone, about that time, in the short space of ten or
twelve years, more than a hundred murders were committed by-
priests. Bernard saw these monstrous evils, and labored with
great diligence to reform the clergy. He censured the monks
with the greatest severity.

But while engaged in this good work, if we may trust his
bk)grapher, be did not nej^lect the minor gifts of healing the sick,
and casting out devils. We will set down some of the miracu-
lous works ascribed to the saint by his contemporaries. In a
certain monastery, called Carus-Locus, (Charlieu) he cured
a boy, who wept and wailed incessantly, with a kiss. For
when he had been weeping for several days, and found no
help from his physicians, our holy man advised him to confess
his sins. He did so, and with a serene face asked Bernard to
kiss him. This also was done, and <^ the kiss of peace being
received from the saint's face, he rested in perfect peace ; the
fountain of his tears was dried up, and he went back rejoicing to
bis friends, safe and sound."

A new Oratory was to be dedicated at Fusniacum, (Foigny,)
and a great swarm of flies took possession of it, so that their
noise and buzzing was very offensive to all who entei*ed. There
was no help to be had. The holy Bernard said, " I excom-
municate them," and the next morning they were all found
dead. This afiair was so well known, that the curse upon the
flies of Foigny became a proverb.*

Once, however, Bernard himself fell sick of the influenza,
we should jodge, and " his body failing on all hands, he was
brought well nigh to death's door." " His sons and his friends

* Vita, S. fiemardi, L c. lib. i. c. xi.



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16 X»t/i 0/ Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. [March,

came as it were to the funeral of so great a father, and I also
was present among them," says William, " for his esteem for
me gave me a place among his friends. When he seemed about
to draw his last breath, as his soul was on the point of leaving
the body, he seemed to himself to stand before the tribunal of
the Loitl. And Satan also was present, attacking him with
bitter accusations. When he had brought forward all hb
charges, and it was time for this man of God to speak for him-
self, nothing daunted or disturbed in the slightest degree, he
said, ^ I confess I am not worthy, nor can I, of my own merits,
obtain the kingdom of Heaven. But my Lord has obtained it
for me, in two legitimate ways ; namely, by inheritance from
his Father, and by the merit of his own suffering. He is satis-
6ed with one, and grants me the other claim. I claim it on
the ground of his gift, and shall not be confounded.' At these
words the enemy was put to shame, the meeting, (before the
tribunal of the Lord,) broke up, and the man of God came to
himself." * His recovery was no less remarkable. " The
blessed Virgin appeared to him, with two companions, Saint
Laurentius and Saint Benedict ; they laid their hands on him,
and by their pious manifestations assuaged the pain in the most
afflicted parts of his body ; they drove off the sickness, and all
pain ceased."

Still farther, to show to what length human credulity will go,
William relates gravely a miracle Bernard wrought on the his-
torian himself. " Once upon a time, when I bad long been sick
in our own house, and my illness, long continued, had weaken-
ed and worn me down to a ^at degree, Bernard heard of it,
and sent his brother, Gerhard, — a man of happy mennory, —



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