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family, and to become at the very best the model of a lawyer and of a family man. But Heaven willed it otherwise, for he was one of the elect, and the hour comes sooner or later when they become conscious of the Divine presence within them, and shake off the dust that defiles them, and rise from the ground as regenerate men.
On a certain day a great ball was given in the town, at which the wife of Giacomo was present. Giacomo remained at home. Whilst engaged in his work a message reached him that his wife was dying. He ran through the streets, and arrived before she was dead. But within a few moments she breathed her last in his arms, and as he took off her clothing he discovered that she wore on her body a coarse garment of hair. The sudden death of his young and beautiful wife in the spring of life, with the promise of a brilliant summer slowly deepening into the mellow glories of autumn, gave him a shock from which he never recovered, and destroyed the balance of his nervous system for ever. The difference between one man and another is that one is mad with method in his madness and that the other is mad without any method. A complete change came over Giacomo; he gave up his practice, severed himself from the connections which he had formed, and said farewell to the life which he had hitherto led. In the midst of the dumb sorrow in which he was plunged he seemed ever to hear a voice telling him to go and sell all that he had and to give it to the poor, in order that he might have treasure in heaven. He resolved to obey the command in the most literal sense, and henceforth to live for heaven alone.
Such a resolution created necessarily a great sensation in a town where he was so well known. It is not astonishing that the gamins, as they saw the once respectable lawyer go through the streets bareheaded and barefooted, with a coarse garment around him, and a strange unearthly fire in his eyes, all the more visible because of the wan haggard face out of which they shone, should have saluted him with the name
of Jacopone, “silly Jack.” As for himself he was proud of the title, and he adopted it joyfully. “My brother," he said, “thinks that he will reflect honour on our name by his cleverness ; I shall do so by my madness." "Holy mad. ness," he called it, and satirically he said of it in one of his poems: “Whoever has made himself a madman for the Lord's sake has obtained great wisdom. In Paris they do not like this philosophy, and he that becomes a fool for Christ's sake can expect nothing but vexation and grief. Yet withal he is elected as Doctor of Philosophy and Divinity." In one word, he deemed it his chiefest glory to be beside himself for the sake of his Lord, and to be accounted a fool because of Christ, and it was this desire which made of him a Christian Diogenes. A characteristic story is told, which reveals more of the temper in which he was than the most detailed description. A relation of his requested him to carry a pair of chickens to his house. A few hours later he got home and found to his surprise that the chickens had not arrived. When questioning Jacopone about the affair, the answer was that he had put them in the church before the family vault_" for their sepulchres shall be their homes," said he, quoting a passage from one of the Psalms.
But sorrow did more than unhinge parts of his nature. It knocked at doors hitherto closed, and opened chambers as yet unfrequented. The overwhelming grief stirring him to the very heart's core, opened a fount of emotion which in the past had been sealed. He looked within and thought that he would find a grave, but behold he found a heaven. Sorrow did not, indeed, make him a poet, but it revealed to him that he was one. The Madonna and her Divine Child became the objects of his love, and amongst all his poems there are none more exquisite than those addressed to her. It was most probably in one of his sleepless nights, when the Cross was pressing heavily upon him, that he wrote the “Stabat Mater,” every line of which seems dipped in his heart's blood. And verily the Madonna rewarded him, for
he became chief among the spiritual his cell and left there till it had become troubadours of Italy.
quite putrid. In this atmosphere he After some time he applied for admit- spent many a day, till at length a memtance to the Convent of the Franciscans. ber of the order visited his cell, and But the monks had no need of an addi. had the obnoxious object removed. tional madman ; there were plenty of He did more, however, than continue them there already. However, they in secret the eccentricities which had would certainly have refused admittance once delighted the little boys of Todi. to the holy Franciscus himself; and it In the solitude of his cell he wrote is therefore not strange that Giacomo's those poems which have procured for request should have been denied. Two him, not an ephemeral fame, but an poems which he wrote opened to him at undying glory. For, with the exception length the gates of the cloister. One of of two, he wrote them in the language them was called “Udite Nova Pazzia," of the people, and in the dialect of his and commences thus: “Listen to a new native Umbria, so that the peasants and folly that has come in my mind. I the very lowest of the people could read should like to be dead, because I have and understand. And thereby he made led a wrong life.” The other poem was the cloister a power in the land. written in Latin, and its title was “ Cur We have seen how he despised learnmundus militat sub vana gloria.” ing. Here is another wild exclamation : “Say where is Solomon with all his “I will turn away from Plato, and let glory, and Samson before whom the him waste his breath; I will despise enemy fled, and beautiful Absalom the tricks of Aristoteles, for they are not clothed in fine garments, and Jonathan productive of gain, and they lead to whose heart beat warmly for his friend ? misery. Simple pure understanding And where is Cæsar now who was once can be obtained without them, and the a great general, and the rich man who face of the Lord can be seen without delighted in the banqueting hall; where the aid of philosophy." Looking at his will you find Tullius with the eloquent sacred poems one will generally find that, tongue, and Aristoteles unique in intel- unlike the ancient hymns, they are not lect? . . . Call not thine own the things disfigured by dogmatics. He might have of this world, she soon takes from you adopted the words of Neander as his what she gave you. Lift up thy heart motto: “It is the heart which makes the towards God, in the Ether let it rest. theologian.” If it is necessary to assign Happy he, who despises the world and him a place in one of the schools, he hates it.” After this the monks wel. must be ranked among the Mystics. comed him cordially, and about the year But what is inysticism if it is not the 1278 he became a member of the order avowal that the human heart is greater of the Franciscans.
than theology or any ology whatever ; He loved his cell. “O my dear cell,” that religion is a great holy emotion he once wrote, “let me ever dwell in defying chemical analysis, and refusing thee, thou dost attract me like a magnet; to be shut up within the stifling atmothou art my guardian, and thou lookest sphere of creed and dogma ; that the at me so fondly that I will never leave heaven-born soul can find its way tothee." It is needless to say that he wards heaven without the aid of earthpractised the most terrible austerities. made crutches ? Jacopone placed himThe garment of the order was scarcely self on his knees and looked in his heart, coarse enough, or the daily meal frugal and wrote down what he saw and enough, for the man of the world, who felt. It is therefore that the Psalms had once been the favourite child of of the East still find an echo on Western fortune. A story is told in confirma- shores, and therefore the burning lyrics tion of his austerity. One day he wished of Giacomo will never be forgotten. Are to have some meat. To punish himself they not full of blemishes? They are he bought a piece which he hung up in indeed. His muse, walking so oft on
No. 166.-VOL. XXVIII,
the unsullied pavement of heaven then grovel in the dust? If the royal amongst the Brides of the Lamb, is fre- daughter of France, dressed in kingly quently seen amidst the dames de la garments, and with the prospect of a Halle, pressing a loud-sounding kiss on throne, stooped to a low courtship, what their coarse lips. He has placed Bil- would men say?" And he exhorts himlingsgate in the very centre of " Jerusa- self : “ Wilt thou find love, thou must lem the Golden.” It is true that cherish with a pure heart true humility. allowance must be made for the atmo- Lowly contempt of self leads to every sphere in which he lived : the times virtue.” And he prays: “O let me were barbarous, and disgusting things rather die than hurt thee any longer. were called by disgusting names, and I see no change in me; pronounce the Truth went about naked, for the modest sentence, for I am long since under congeneration had not yet been born that demnation.” Or, “Intoxicated with compelled her to wear a garment, and love, let me wind my arms so tightly there were no Elises or Louises, or what around thee that nothing can loosen ever their names may be, to dress her them. Let me impress deeply thy image up so that it is well nigh impossible on my heart, so that I may escape from to distinguish her from her younger the path of the wicked.” And at last sister, Falsehood. After all, who remem- he is at rest, and he triumphs : "I rest bers the eccentricities of the monk and and yearn no more, for I have seen the occasional coarseness of the poet, when Lamb, and my reason dwells in peace in he thinks of the manly heart, the un- the bosom of the highest unity.” And daunted courage, the simplicity of mind, in bis madness of joy he plucks a flower the straightforwardness of character, the from the border-land of Pantheism : exceeding tenderness of feeling, and the “My soul shall rest in the heart of God. passion of love which distinguished the Plunged in the depths of a great lake, it Franciscan from those around him? One will find no possibility of escape." day he was found weeping, and when His prose writings are fow. The asked the reason of his tears he ex- following, he says, is an evidence that claimed : “I weep because Love goes we have the love of God within us. about unloved.” Who can help kissing “If we ask for something and we rethe pale lips that spoke such words ? ceive it not, and love God all the more,
Read his description of the struggle or if we obtain the very opposite of between body and soul, concluding with our request, and yet love God twice as the body asking merely for life and much as before, then we love Him innothing else. Listen to the pathetic deed.” A parable of his deserves to words which he puts into the mouth be mentioned : “A maiden had five of Christ: “My son, I have reason to brothers; one was a musician, the complain because thou fleest from me second was a painter, the third was a day after day. And I desire thy salva- merchant, the fourth was a cook, and tion, therefore avoid me no longer. I the fifth a scene-painter. She had have followed thee for a long time; I a beautiful diamond which all the shall give thee my kingdom, and take brothers wanted. The first came to away all things that might hurt thee, her and said, “Let me buy it.' "What and pay the debts which in thy will you give me for it?' she asked. blindness thou hast incurred.” Some- ‘I will play you a beautiful tune,' he times he is greatly troubled : “ Woe answered. But what shall I do,' was unto me, my heart is cold and idle. the reply, when the tune is over?' Why do I not sigh for the pangs of She therefore refused his request. The love, that they may kill me? I find not other brothers were likewise denied. the loved one in things created.” And At last came a prince, and when asked then he encourages himself: “Did not what would be his payment, he answered, God create the soul that it might dwell I will marry you, you shall be mine.' in a state of high nobility ? Shall it Whereupon she gave him the diamond." The diamond is the soul, and Suspicion, as I have already said, the five brothers are the five senses. attached to Boniface VIII., and the The Royal Suitor is the King of kings, opposition to his succession was headed who demands the soul for himself, and by the Colonnas. Jacopone joined them whose call she obeys with gladness. in their fortress of Palestrina, and
Unfortunately for Jacopone, he did signed his name as a witness to a not confine himself to writing sacred document drawn up by them in answer poetry. Sobered down and softened to a Papal invitation to attend a though he was as years went on, the Council. Subsequently Palestrina was traditions of his family, and the mental laid siege to, and in the month of Sepdiscipline through which he had passed tember of the year 1298 it surrendered. as a lawyer, combined with his fiery The Pope had every reason to dislike temperament, would not allow him to and to fear Jacopone. His sympathies confine himself to spiritual exercises, were with the strict order amongst the and to be cramped for ever by the walls Franciscans, cordially disliked by the of the cloister. With biting satire he worldly Pope; he wielded a pen more assailed the sins and vices of the dangerous than the sword of the Church and the world. He tells us how Colonnas, and he used it pitilessly and Poverty knocked at the doors of the unsparingly. As a matter of course the prelates to see whether she would be ad. monk who would never consent to any mitted, and was mercilessly beaten when compromise when Justice was on her she attempted to enter. Jesus Christ trial, was imprisoned. He rejoiced in weeps and laments when He looks at it, and wrote a song of victory. In His fallen Church, where sin and in- one of his poems he asks : “ Jacopone, gratitude have taken up their abode. how will it fare with thee? thou art put “Where are the Fathers exalted in to the test," and then he describes the faith? Where are the Prophets, treatment he had to undergo, from messengers of hope? Where are the which it is clear that his life was one Apostles full of love? Where are the of great hardship. Martyrs without fear or blame? Where He could have borne it all, braveare the Prelates just and pure? Where hearted as he was and used to suffering, are the Doctors skilled in doctrine and had it not been for the excommunicain wisdom ?" Jacopone looks around tion, which weighed heavily on him. him and discovers nothing but bastards. « Oh listen to my prayer and speak the
At this time a serious disturbance absolving word. I shall gladly bear all about the Papal chair and a split in the other punishments till the hour of my Franciscan order occupied his mind. death.” He felt himself completely Cælestin V. had died, and it was sup- isolated from the religious world ; he posed that his successor, Boniface VIII., longed to feel the arms of his spiritual had been instrumental in hastening his Mother around his suffering form, and death. The former had been a saint, to hear a word of counsel and enand Jacopone, who most probably couragement. It seemed to him that thought that a saint would never make he had been left alone to die. And at. a good Pope, had warned him not to a noment, too, when the city of Rome accept the patrimony of St. Peter. could hardly contain the numberless "Pier da Morron, thou art brought pilgrims that flocked to her temples to the test. If thou forsakest God for from all quarters of the globe. It was such a morsel, thy short existence will the year of the jubilee, the dawning of be a curse. . . . Alas, my heart has another century, and this John the suffered deeply: when thou saidst 'I Baptist lay languishing in prison. And will,' thou hast taken a burden which for once the strong man quailed, and will be an everlasting torment to thee.” almost supplicated the Pope to release The unfortunate Pier listened not to the him. “ Why, O Shepherd, dost thou advice and came to an untimely death. not pity me, and listen to my loud
weeping ? Take from me the curse secondary duty of the critic to prowhich separates me from the congrega- nounce judgment on a work of past tion. Is the punishment not enough times. His task is to merge his which I bear ? Inflict other sufferings individuality in that of the person to if it pleases thee." But his complaint be described ; to put himself entirely in died away unheeded. The embittered his place; to live, if possible, his life, Jacopone took up his pen and launched and to breathe the spirit of the times in forth his satires against the Pope. And which his lot was cast. After having one day when Boniface passed the done so he stands aloof, and points out prison and called out through the bars, how the moral and intellectual pheno- Jacopone, when shalt thou leave this mena brought to light are in accordance prison ?" he answered, "When thou with laws as certain and as fixed as shalt have entered it.”
those of the physical world, if we but The words proved to be prophetical. knew them. As yet we know but in Three years later Boniface was in prison, part, and hence there is room for misand before the end of the year Jacopone takes and surprise ; but when we shall was in a cell of the Convent at Cellarino. know fully, the only source of astonishSheltered by its walls from the sur- ment left to humanity will be the fact rounding world, he spent the last days that it ever was astonished. of his stormy life in peace. At the end The one great hymn of Jacopone has of the year 1306 he fell seriously ill. sufficed to lift him from the ranks of As he was on the point of death the the dead immortals to those who stand brethren wished to give him the sacra- forth in living immortality. And after ment. But he said that he would receive him came the Atlas of the Middle it from no one except from his beloved Ages, Dante Alighieri. The Franciscan Janne dell' Averna. And hardly had monk was his prophet. he finished singing the hymn “Anima
ALEXANDER SCHWARTZ. O benedetta," beginning “O soul on
The following is a list of Jacopone's whom the Creator bas bestowed plen- works :-The edition of Tresatti divides his teous salvation, consider thy Lord on poetical works into seven books, viz., Book I. the Cross waiting to heal thee," when
Le Satire ; Book JI. I Cantici Morali ; Book
III. Le Odi; Book IV. I Cautici penitentiali; his friend, who lived at a great distance
Book V. Theorica del divino amore; Book VI. and who was ignorant of the illness of Cantici spirituali amatorii; Book VII. Segreto Jacopone, entered the room. He re spirituale. The titles of his prose works are ceived the sacrament from his hands,
as follows :-Quando homo potest scire quod
sit in charitate; De humilitate; quomodo homo and murmuring, “Jesú nostra fidanza, del
pervenit ad sui contemptum ; De triplici cuor somma speranza," he fell asleep in animae statu; De quatuor pugnis animae ; the night specially sacred to those he De reformatione sensuum similitudo; De had loved so well—the Madonna and studio animae ad virtutes; De quaestione inter her Child.
* rationem et conscientiam ; De quinque scutis
patientiae. It will be observed that Tresatti's The following epitaph was written on
edition does not contain the “Stabat Mater." him :
This omission does not, however, favour the
supposition that it was not written by Jaco“Ossa B. Jacoponi de Benedictis, Tudertini Fr. Ordinis Minorum
pone. Tresatti does not mention “Cur Mun.
dus," which is undoubtedly from the pen of Qui stultus propter Christum,
Jacopone. As the latter is the only other Nova Mundum Arte delusit,
Latin poem which he wrote, I transcribe the Et Cælum rapuit.
first and last verses :Obdormivit in Domino die XXV Decembris Anno MCCCVI.”
“ Cur Mundus militat sub vana gloria
Cujus prosperitas est transitoria, His works were edited by Tresatti,
Tam cito labitur ejus potentia who added a copious commentary to
Quam vasa figuli quae sunt fragilia. them. To enter into a detailed criticism
Nil tuum dixeris quod potes perdere of his poems would require a large
Quod mundus tribuit intendit rapere,
Superna cogita, cor sit in aethere, space. Apart from this, it is quite a Felix qui potuit mundum contemnere."