Imágenes de páginas

is to be found in an anecdote of St. Bernard and his friends. Weakened by his austerities, he retired to his cell, where he could not be persuaded to have a fire, but there were some who were more solicitous than himself to promote his comfort, and they contrived to introduce hot air into the apartment, through the stone floor under his bed.* There was a touch of good feeling, as well as of skilful contrivance, exhibited by these friends of the old abbot; whence it appears, that warming rooms by hot air is no modern invention, and that the reverence felt for genius and piety, and a desire to promote the comfort of those we love, are not peculiar to any age or country. Further light is thrown upon monkish employments in a letter written by Peter the Venerable, a friend and correspondent of the above-mentioned St. Bernard. After exhorting his friends to study and write, he says, “ If, however, from its injuring your sight, or from its wearisome sameness, you cannot, or will not be content, with one manual employment, make a variety of other handyworks. Make combs for combing and cleaning the heads of the brethren ; with skilful hand and wellinstructed foot, turn needle-cases ; hollow out vessels for wine, such as they call justitiæ, or others like them, or try to put them together. And if there are any marshy places near, weave mats (an ancient monastic employment) on which you may always, or frequently sleep, may bedew with daily, or frequent tears, and

* Maitland's Dark Ages, p. 406.

wear out with frequent genuflexion before God; cr, as St. Jerome says, weave little baskets with flags, or make them of wicker. Filling up all the time of your blessed life with these and similar works of holy purpose, you will leave no room for your adversaries to intrude into your heart, or into your cell, but that when God has filled all with his virtues, there shall be no room for the devil, none for sloth, none for the other vices."* They were truly odd employments which the abbot prescribed ; yet, it is to be feared, that many of the brotherhood were far from being always so well employed ; certainly, the latter part of the advice is very good, and, though written by a man in the dark ages, is not unworthy of consideration in these enlightened times.

There was, in many monasteries, a room specially devoted to employment of the highest value: This was the scriptorium, or writingroom. After the twelfth century, small cells, only capable of accommodating a single person, were used by the monastic scribes; but, at an earlier period, one large apartment was appropriated to their use.

" Meanwhile, along the cloister's painted side

The monks, each bending low upon his book,
With head on hand reclined, their studies plied,
Forbid to parley, or in front to look;
Lengthways their regulated seats they took.
The strutting prior gazed, with pompous mien,
And wakeful tongue prepared with prompt rebuke;
If monk asleep in sheltering hood were seen,
He wary often peep'd beneath that russet screen.

* Quoted in Maitland's Dark Ages, p. 453.

"Haid by, against the window's adverse light,

Where desks were wont in length of row to stand,
The gown'd artificers inclined to write,
The pen of silver glisten'd in their hand;
Some on their fingers rhyming Latin scann'd,
Some textile gold from balls unwinding drew,
And on strain'd velvet stately portraits plann'd;
Here arms, there faces shone, in embryo view,
At last to glittering life the total figures grew."

The last stanza describes the business carried on in the scriptorium, and may help the reader, the next time he visits the ruins of an old monastery, and sees among the mouldering remains, the traces of such an apartment, to picture to himself the scene which enlivened that spot when the abbey walls, now covered with moss, appeared in all their stately pride. Deep silence, as the above description indicates, was observed by the monks, when carrying on their studies and their writing; and, to prevent its being broken, they were required to adopt a whimsical system of communication with each other respecting anything they wanted. “Of course there was a sign for a book. For a book, in general, they were to extend their hand, and move it, as if turning over the leaf of a book. The general sign being made, another was added to distinguish the sort of book wanted ; and there were distinct signs for the Missal, the Gospels, the Epistolary, the Psalter, the Rule, and so on ; but to distinguish a book written by a heathen, the monk was to scratch his ear like a dog."*

From catalogues of monastic libraries pre* Maitland's Dark Ages, p. 403. Du Cange, Glossary, voce


served in D'Achery's Spicelegium, it may be concluded that it was considered a large collection, when an abbey possessed from two to three hundred volumes. The rich abbey of Centule had such a collection, in the ninth century.* The mention of a library like this will give to some readers the idea of books having been more common in the dark ages than they had supposed; for there can be no doubt that the scarcity of books, at that period, has been somewhat exaggerated ; but still, even a library of this extent, in a wealthy abbey, does not say much in proof of a large multiplication of manuscripts, and of great diligence on the part of monastic transcribers. The process of copying was, as every one must admit, tedious and expensive ; but the Romans, the Egyptians, and the Saracens, had to contend with the same difficulties, yet their libraries were some of them prodigiously large. Seven hundred thousand volumes, it was calculated, were in the famous library of Alexandria : but that was beyond all parallel. The library of Pergamus, however, amounted to 200,000 volumes. Doubtless, many of the books of the ancients were small, for Ovid speaks of his fifteen books of Metamorphoses as forming an equal number of volumes ;t yet, allowing for this, some of the libraries of

* “The volumes,” says the chronicler, "amount to 256, but some of these volumes contains several manuscripts, so that if we were to number these separately they would exceed 500."--D'Achery, Spic. ii. 311.

+0 .1.29.

« AnteriorContinuar »