William Greenough Thayer Shedd Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo.).

The confessions of Augustine online

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do I speak. This is my hope, for this do I live, that
I may co^itempUtte the delights of the Lord. Be-
hold, Thou hast made my days old^ and they pass
away, and how, I know not. And we talk of time
and time, and times and times. " How long time is
it since lie sud this?'* "how long time since he did
this?" and, "how long time since I saw that?" and,
" this syllable hath double time to that single short
syllable." These words we speak, and these we hear,
and are understood, and understand. Most manifest
and ordinary they are, and the self-same things again

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822 Time is not motion.

are bat too deeply hidden, and the diseovery of tbeni
were new.

XXIII. 2G. I heard once from a learned man, that
the motions of the san, moon and stars constituted
time, and I assented not. For why should not,
rather, the motions of all bodies be times? Or, if the
lights of heaven should cease, and a potter's wheel
run round, would there be no time by which we
might measure those whirlings, and say, that either
it moved with equal pauses, or if it turned some-
times slower, otherwise quicker, that some rounds
were longer, others shorter? Or, while wo were say-
ing this, should we not also be speaking in time?
And would thei*o not bo in our wonis, some sylla-
bles shoit, others long, because those sounded in a
shorter time, these in a longer? Gh>d grant to men
to see in a small thing, notices common to things
great and small. The stars and lights of heaven are
also /or si^iSy and for seasons^ and for years and for
days; they are ; yet neither should I say that the
going round of that wooden wheel was a day, nor
yet be, that it was therefoi-o no time.

80. I desire to know the force and nature of time,
by which we measure the motions of bodies, and say,
for example, ^This motion is twice as long as that."
For I ask, seeing "day** denotes not the stay only of
the sun upon the earth (according to which, day ii
one thing, night another), but also its whole circuit
from east to east again (according to which, we say,
"there passed so many days," the night being inclu*
ded when we say, ** so many days," and the nights not

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Time is an extenaian^ or duration. 323

reckoned apart),— -seeing then a day is completed by
the motion of the sun, and by his circuit from east to
east agnin, I ask, does tlie motion alone make the
day, or the stay in tvhich that motion is completed,
or both ? For, if the first be the day, then should we
have a day, although the sun should finish that course
in so small a space of time as one hour comes to. If
the second, then should not that make a day, if be-
tween Olio sun-rise and another there were but so
short a Htay as one liour comes to ; but the sun must
go four and twenty times about to complete one
day. If both, then neither could that be called a
day, if the sun should run his whole round in the
space of one hour ; nor that, if^ while the sun stood
still, so much time should overpass, as the sun usu-
ally makes his whole course in, from morning to
morning. I will not, therefore, now ask what that
is whicli is called day; but, what time is, whereby
we, measuring the circuit of the sun, should say
that it was finished in half the time it was wont, if
so be it was finished in so small a space as twelve
hours ; and comparing both times, should call this a
single time, that a double time; even supposing the
sun to run his round from east to east, sometimes in
that simple, sometimes in that double time. Let no
man, then, tell me that the motions of the heavenly
bodies constitute times because, when at the prayer
of one the sun had stood still till he could achieve
his victorious battle, the sun stood still, but time went
on. For in its own allotted space of time was that

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824 Time is not motion.

battle waged and ended.^ I perceive time, tlicn, to be
a certain extension. But do I perceive it, or seem to
perceive it? Thou, Light and Truth, wilt show me.
XXIV. 31. Dost Thou bid me assent, if any de-
fine time to bo ^motion of a body? ** Thou dost not
bid me. For that no body is moved, but in time, I
hear; this Thou sayest; but that the motion of a
body is time, I hear not ; Thou sayest it not. For
when a body is moved, I by time measure how long
it moves, from the time it began to move, until it left
off. And if I did not see whence it began, and it
continue to move so that I see not when it ends, I
cannot measure, save perchance from the time I be-
gan to see, until I cease to see. And if I look long,
I can only pronounce it to bo a long time, but not
how long; because when we say **how long," we do
it by comparison; as, ^this b as long as that," or
"this twice so long as that," or the like. But when
we can mark the dbtances of the places, whence and
whither goeth the body moved, or its parts, if it
moved as in a lathe, then can we say precisely in
how much time the motion of that body or its part,
from this place unto that, was finished. Seeir.g,
therefore, the motion of a body is one thing, that by
which we measure how long it is, another; who sees
not, which of the two is rather to be called time?
And if a body sometimes moves, and sometimes
stands still, then we measure not its motion only, but
its standing still, too, by time ; and we say, " it stood
still as much as it moved;" or, "it stood still twice

1 Joshua X. 12 sq.

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AuguBtine prays for iUumincUum. 826

or thrice as long as it moved;" or any other space
which our measuring hath either ascertained, oi
guessed ; more or less, as we used to say. Time^
then, is not the motion of a body.

XXV. 82. And I confess to Thee O Lord, that I
yet know not what time is ; and again I confess unto
Thee, O Lord, that I know that I speak this in time,
Und that having long spoken of time, that very ^long"
is not long, but by the pause of time. How then
know I this, seeing I know not what time is? or is
it perchance that I know not how to express what I
know ? Woe is me, that do not even know what I
do not know. Behold, O my God, before Thee I lie
not; but as I speak, so is my heart. Thoti shaU
light my candle; Thou^ Lord my Ood^ wilt etv-
lighten my darkness.

XXVT. 83. Does not my soul most ti*uly confess
unto Thee Uiat I do measure times? Do I then
measure, O my God, and know not what I measure?
I menHure the motion of a bixly in time ; and the
time itself do I not measure ? Or could I indeed
measure the motion of a body, how long it were, and
in how long space it could come from this place to
that, without measuring the time in which it is
moved ? This same time, then, how do I measure ? do
we by a shorter time measure a longer, as by the space
of a cubit, the space of a rood? for so indeed we seem
hy the space of a short syllable, to measure the space
^f a long syllable, and to say that this is double the
^ther. Thus measure we the spaces of stanzas by
the spaces of the verses, and the spaces of the verse

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826 Short times measure Umg times.

by the spaces of the feet, and the spaces of the feet
by the spaces of the syllables, and the spaces of long
by the spaces of short syllables, not measuring by pa«
ges (for then we measure spaces, not times) ; but
when we utter the words and they pass by, we say,
^* It is a long stanza, because composed of so many
veraes ; long veracs, because consisting of so many
feet ; long feet, because prolonged by so many sylla-
bles ; a long syllable, because double to a short one.''
But neither do we this way obtain any certain meas-
ure of time ; because it may be that a shorter verse,
pronounced more fully, may take up more time
than a longer, pronounced hurriedly. And so for a
verse, a foot, a syllable. Whence it seemed to me,
that time is nothing else than protraction ; but of
what, I know not. And I wonder whether it be not
of the mind itself? For what, I beseech Thee, O my
Ood, do I measure, when I say, either indefinitely,
^this is a longer time than that," or definitely, ^this
is double that ? " That I measure time, I know ; and
yet I measure not time to come, for it is not yet ; nor
present, because it is not protracted by any space ; nor
past, because it now is not. What then do I meas-
ure ? Times passing, not past? for so I said.

XX VII. 84. Courage, my mind, and press on
mightily. God is our helper. He made ua^ a^id not
toe ourselves. Press on where truth begins to dawn.
Suppose, now, the voice of a body begins to sound,
and does sound, and sounds on, and list, it censes ; it
is silence now, and that voice is past, and is no more
a voice. Before it sounded, it was to come, and

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Difficulties and contradictiona. 827

oould not be measured, because as yet it was not, and
now it cannot, because it is no longer. Then, there-
fore, while it sounded, it might; because there then
was wliat might bo measured. But yet even then it
was not at a stay; for it was passing on, and passing
away. Could it be measured the rather, for that ?
For, while passing, it was being extended into some
space of time, so that it might be measured, since the
present hath no space. I^ therefore, then it might,
then, lo, suppose another voice hath begun to sound,
and still soundeth in one continued tenor, without
any intentiption ; let us measure it while it sounds ;
seeing when it hath left sounding, it will then be
past, and nothing left to be measured ; let us meas-
ure it verily, and tell how much it is. But it sounds
still, nor can it be measured but from the instant it be-
gan ill, unto the end it loft off in. For the very space
between is the thing we measure ; namely, fi'om some
beginning, unto some end. Wherefore, a voice that
is not yet ended, cannot be measured, so that it may
be said how long, or short it is ; nor can it be cdlled
equal to another, or double to a single, or the like.
But when ended, it no longer is. How may it then
be mc.'isured? And yet we measure times; but yet
neither those which are not yet, nor those which no
longer are, nor those which are not lengthened out by
some pause, nor those which have no bounds. We
measure neither times to come, nor past, nor present,
nor passing ; and yet we do measure times.

85. "Deus Creator omnium," this verse of eight
syllables alternates between short and long syllables*

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828 l^me is mecuured

The four short, tbon (tho first, third, fifth, and sev-
enth), are but single, in respect of the four long (the
second, fourth, sixth, and eighth). Every one of the
latter hath a double time to every one of the former;
I pronounce them, report on them, and find it so, as
one's plain sense perceives. By plain sense, then, I

' measure a long syllable by a short, and I sensibly find
it to have twice so much ; but when one sounds aft.er
the other, if the former be short, the latter long, how
shall I detain the short one, and how, measuring,
shall I apply it to the long, that I may find this to
have twice so ninoh ; seeing tho long does not l>egin
to sound unless the short leaves sounding? And
that long one itself, I do not measure while ]>resont,
seeing I measure it not till it be ended? Now its
ending is its passing away. What then is it I meas-
ure? where is the short syllable by which I meas-
ure ? where the long which I measure ? Both have
sounded, have flown, passed away, are no more;
and yet I measure, and confidently answer (so far as

- is' presumed on a practised sense), that as to space
of time this syllable is but single, that double. And
yet I could not do this, unless they were already past
and ended. It is not, then, themselves, which now
are not, that I measure, but something in my mem-

;ory, which there remains fixed.

86. It is in thee, my mind, that I measure times.
Interrupt me not, that is, interrupt not thysc^lf with
the tumults of thy impressions. In thee I measure
times ; the impression, which things as they pass by
cause in thee, remains even when they are gone;

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Qfilf/ when past


this it is which still present, I measure, and not the
things which pass by to make this impression. This
I measure^ when I measare times. Either, then, this
is time, or I do not measare times. How is it then,
when we measure silence, and say that this silence
hath held as long time as did that voice ? do we not
stretch out our thought to the measure of a voice, *
as if it sounded ; that so we may be able to report of
the intervals of silence in a given space of time? For
though both voice and tongue be still, yet in thought
we go over poems, and verses, and any other discourse,
or dimensions of motions, and report as to the spaces
of times, how much this is in respect of that, no
otherwise than if vocally we did pronounce them.
If a man would utter a lengthened sound, and had
settled in thought how long it should be, he hath in
sileiK^o already gone through a spn<.'o of time, and,
committing it to memory, begins to utter that speech,
which sounds on, until it be brought unto the end
proposed. Tea it hath sounded, and will sound ; for
so much of it as is finished, hath sounded already,
and the rest will sound. And thus passeth it on,
until the present intent conveys over the future into
the pnst; the past increasing by the diminution of
the future, until by the consumption of the future, all
is prst.

XXYIII. 87. But how is that future diminished or
consumed, which as yet is not? or how that past in-
creased, which is now no longer, unless because that
in the mind which enacts tliis, there be three things
done ? For it expects, it considei's (attendit), it re-

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880 7'ime is measured in tJie mind.

members; in snch way that that which it expecta,
through that which it considers, passes into that which
it ramembers. Who tliereforo denies that things to
come are not as yet ? and yet, there is in the mind an
expectation of things to come. And who denies p^st
things to be now no longer ? and yet there is still in
the mind a memory of things past And who denies
that the present time hath no space, because it passes
away in a moment? and yet our consideration (at-
tentio) continues, through which that which shall
be present proceeds to become absent. It is not
then future time, that is long, for as yet it is not ;
but a ^long Aiture,'' is ^a long expectation of the fu-
ture." Nor is it time past, which now is not, tiiut is
long; but a 'Mong past," is ^a long memory of the

88. I am about to repeat a Psalm that I know.
Before I begin, my expectation is extended over the
whole ; but when I have begun, how much soever of
it I shall separate off into the past, is extended along
my memory; thus the life of this action of mine is
divided between my memory as to what I have re-
peated, and expectation as to what I am about to re-
peat; but "consideration" (attentio) is present with
me, that through it, what was future may be con-
veyed over, so as to become past Which the more
it is done again and again, so much the more the ex-
pectation being shortened, is the memory culnrged;
till the whole expectation be at length exhausted,
when that whole action being ended, phall have
passed into memory. And this which takes place in


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All dtBtractions harmonized in God* 881

the whole Psalm, takes place m each several portion
of it, and each several syllable; the same holds in
that longer action, whereof this Psalm may be a
part; the same holds in the whole life of man,
whereof all the actions of man are parts; the same
holds throngh the whole age of the sons of men,
whereof all the lives of men are parts.

XXIX. 89. But because Thy Iwing kindtiess is
better than cUl liveSy behold, my life is but a distrac-
tion, and Jlty right hand upheld me, in my Lord
the Soih of Many the Mediator betwixt ITiee^ The
One, and us many (many also throngh our manifold
distractions amid many things), that by Him J may
appreliend in Whom I have beeti apprehended^ and
may bo re-collected from my old conversation, to foi'
low The One, forgetting toIuU is behind^ and^ not
distcndiMl, but extetidcdy not to things which Rhall bo
and shall pass away, but to those tilings which are
brforcy not distractedly but intently /o&>w> on for th6
prize of my heaveiHy calling where I may Iiear the
voice of Thy praise^ afid contemplate Thy delights^
ever coming, never passing away. But now are my
years spent in mourning. And Thou, O Lord, art
my comfort, my Father everlasting. But I have been
severed amid times, whose order I know not; and
my thoughts, even the inmost bowels of my soul, are
rent and mangled with tumultuous varieties, until I
flow together into Thee, purified and molten by the
fire of Thy love.

XXX. 40. And now will I stand, and become solid
in Tlice, in my mould, Tliy truth ; nor will I endure

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8S2 Time is created.

the questions of men, who by a penal disease thirst
for moi*e than they can contain, and say, "What did
God before He made heaven and earth f^ " Or, how
came it into His mind to make anything, having
never made anything?" Give them, O Lord, to be-
think themselves what they say, and to find that
"never" cannot be predicated, when "time" is not.
This, then, that He is said "never to have made;"
what else is it than to say, "in 'no time' to have
made ? " Let them see, therefore, that time cannot
be without created being, and cease to ^peak that
vanity. May they also be extended towards those
things which are before; and understand Thee be-
fore all times the eternal Creator of all tinu^B, and
that no times be co((ternal with Thee, nor any crea-
ture, even if there be any creature before all times.

XXXI. 41. O Lord my God, what a depth is that
recess of Thy mysteries, and how far from it have the
consequences of my transgressions cast me ! Heal
mine eyes that I may share the joy of Thy light.
Certainly, if there be a mind gifted with such vast
knowledge and foreknowledge as to know all things
past and to come, as I know one well-known Psalm,
truly that mind is passing wonderful, and fearfully
amazing ; in that, nothing past, nothing to come in
after ages, is any more hidden from him, than when
I sung that Psalm, was hidden from me, what, and
how much of it had passed away from the begiiming,
what, and how much there remained unto the end.
But far be it, that Thou, the Creator of the universe,
the Creator of souls and bodies, far be it, that Thou

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GocCs cognition differeni from man^s. ^ZZ

shotildest in such wise know all past and to come*
Far, far more wonderfally, and far more mysteri-
ously, (lost Thou know them. For not as the feel-
ings of one who sings what he knows, or hears some
well-known song^ through expectation of the words
to come, and th6 remembering of those that are past,
are varied, and hb senses divided, — not so doth any
thing happen unto Thee, unchangeably eternal, that
is, the Eternal Greater of minds. As, then, Thou in
the Beginning knewest the heaven and ih6 eaHhy
without any variety of Thy knowledge, so modest
Thou in the beginning^ heaven and ^ar^A, without
any distraction of thy action. Whoso understand-
eth, let him confess unto Thee ; ' and whoso under-
Btandeth not^ let him confess unto Thee. Oh, how
high art Thou 1 and yet the humble in beart are Thy
dwelling-place ; for Thou raieeat up those tlmt are
bowed down^ and they fall not, whode elevation Thou



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AuavsnirB pbooxxdb to oomnEnr ov anraflu 1. 1, avd BXPLAin


I. 1. My heart, Lord, touched with the words
of Thy holy Scripture, is much busied, amid this
poverty of my life. And therefore, oftentimes, is the
poverty of human understanding copious in words,
because inquiring hath more to say than discovering,
and demanding is longer than obtaining, and our
hand that knocks hath more work to do than our
hand that receives. But we have the promise (who
shall make it null?) : If Ood be for tis^who can be
against usf Aah^ and ye $haU iMve; seeky and ye
shaU find; knocks and it ahaU be opened unto you.
For every one tJiat aekethy receivet/i/ and lie tfuU
seeJceth^findeth; and to him that knocketh^ s/iaU it be
opened} These are Thine own promises; and who

lllCatt.rU. 7.

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TJit visible and invisible heavens.


need fear to be deceived, whea the Truth prom-

n. 2. The lowliness of my tongue confesseth unto
Thy Ilighiicss, that Thou madest heaven and earth;
this heaven which I see, and this earth that I ti*ead
upon, wlicnce also is this earth that I bear about
me, Thou madest it. But where is that heaven of
heavens^ O Lord, which we hear of in the words of
the Psahn : The heaven of heavens are the Lords;
but the earth hath JBe given to the c/iildren of men f^
Where is that heaven which we see not, and, com-
pared with which, all this which we see is earth?
For this corporeal whole, not being wholly every-
where, hath in such wise received its portion of
beauty in these lower parts, whereof the lowest is
this our earth; but in comparison to that heaven
of /leavniSy oven the heaven of our earth is but
earth : yci, both those great bodies may not absurdly
bo calliMl eart/ij when compared to that unknown
heavenj which is t/ie Zord^Sj not the sons^ of men,

III. 3. And now this earth was invisible and witfi-
out form^ and there was I know not what depth of
abyss, ui>on which there was no light, because it had
no shape. Therefore didst Thou command it to be
written, that darkness was upon the face of t1\e deep^
— what else than the absence of light? For had
there been light, where should it have been but by
being over all, aloft, and enlightening? Where then
light was not, what was the presence of darkness,
but the absence of light ? Darkness^ therefore, was


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886 The primitive formless chaos,

upon it, because light was not upon it; as where
sound is not, there is silence. And what is it to have
silence there, but to have no sound there ? Hast not
Thou, O Lord, taught this soul, which confesseth
unto Thee? Hast not Thou taught me. Lord, that
before Thou didst form and diversify this formless
matter, there was nothing ; neither color, nor figure,
nor body, nor spirit? And yet not altogether no-
thing ; for there was a certain formlessness, without
any beauty.

lY. 4. How then should it be called, that it might
be in some measure conveyed to those of duller
mind, but by some ordinary word? And what,
among all parts of the world, can be found nearer to
an absolute formlessness, than earth and dcq)f For,
occupying the lowest stage, they are less beautiftd
than the other higher parts are, transparent all and
shining. Wherefore, then, may I not conceive the
formlessness of matter (which Thou hadst created
without beauty, whereof to make this beautiful
world) to be suitably intimated unto men, by the
name of earth invisible and toithotU form,

y. 5. So that when thought seeketh what the
sense may conceive under this, and saith to itself
^It is no intellectual form, as life, or justice, because
it is the matter of bodies ; nor object of sense, be-
cause, being invisible and without form, there was in
it no object of sight or sense,'' — while man's thought
thus saith to itself it may endeavor either to know
it, by being ignorant of it; or to be ignorant, by
knowing it

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Auffustine istmoNe to conceive thefornUesa. 887

VI. 6. But I, Lord (if I would by my tongue and
my pen confess unto Thee the whole that Thyself
hath taught me of that matter, the name whereof
hearing and not understanding, when they who un-
dcrstood it not told me of it), so conceived of it, as
having innumerable forms, and diverse. And there-
fore I did not clearly conceive it at all. My mind
tossed up and down foul and honible "forms" out
of all order, but yet "forms;** and I called it with-

Online LibraryWilliam Greenough Thayer Shedd Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo.)The confessions of Augustine → online text (page 24 of 31)