THE COMPLETE WORKS
ARROWS OF THE CHACE OUR FATHERS HAVE TOLD US THE STORM-CLOUD OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY HORTUS INCLUSUS
NATIONAL LIBRARY ASSOCIATION NEW YORK CHICAGO
"Our Fathers Have Told Us"
SKETCHES OF THE HISTORY OF CHRISTENDOM
FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
WHO HAVE BEEN HELD AT ITS FONTS
THE BIBLE OF AMIENS
CHAPTER I.—BY THE RIVERS OF WATERS 1
" II.—UNDER THE DRACHENFELS 26
" III.—THE LION TAMER 58
" IV.—INTERPRETATIONS 88
APPENDIX I.—CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF PRINCIPAL EVENTS REFERRED TO IN THE 'BIBLE OF AMIENS' 143
" II.—REFERENCES EXPLANATORY OF PHOTOGRAPHS TO CHAPTER IV 144
" III.—GENERAL PLAN OF 'OUR FATHERS HAVE TOLD US' 153
ST. MARY (Frontispiece) see page 131
To face page
PLATE I.—THE DYNASTIES OF FRANCE 8
" II.—THE BIBLE OF AMIENS, NORTHERN PORCH BEFORE RESTORATION 26
" III.—AMIENS, JOUR DES TRESPASSES, 1880 58
PLAN OF THE WEST PORCHES 140
1. Italic characters have been represented by xxxxx
2. Superscript characters have been represented by xxx^yy
3. A macron, or bar over a letter, is shown as [=letter]
4. In the paragraph that begins, "Sketch for yourself, first, a map of France" there are images in the paragraph. I have represented back-slanting diagonal shading with "" and forward-slanting diagonal shading with "///" and horizontal shading with "=".
5. In the original text, footnotes in Chapter I are represented with numbers, and footnotes in all the rest of the text, including the notes on Chapter I, are represented with symbols. I have converted all of them to numbers, since there is no overlap, and they seem to be used in the same way in the text.
The long abandoned purpose, of which the following pages begin some attempt at fulfilment, has been resumed at the request of a young English governess, that I would write some pieces of history which her pupils could gather some good out of;—the fruit of historical documents placed by modern educational systems at her disposal, being to them labour only, and sorrow.
What else may be said for the book, if it ever become one, it must say for itself: preface, more than this, I do not care to write: and the less, because some passages of British history, at this hour under record, call for instant, though brief, comment.
I am told that the Queen's Guards have gone to Ireland; playing "God save the Queen." And being, (as I have declared myself in the course of some letters to which public attention has been lately more than enough directed,) to the best of my knowledge, the staunchest Conservative in England, I am disposed gravely to question the propriety of the mission of the Queen's Guards on the employment commanded them. My own Conservative notion of the function of the Guards is that they should guard the Queen's throne and life, when threatened either by domestic or foreign enemy: but not that they should become a substitute for her inefficient police force, in the execution of her domiciliary laws.
And still less so, if the domiciliary laws which they are sent to execute, playing "God save the Queen," be perchance precisely contrary to that God the Saviour's law; and therefore, such as, in the long run, no quantity either of Queens, or Queen's men, could execute. Which is a question I have for these ten years been endeavouring to get the British public to consider—vainly enough hitherto; and will not at present add to my own many words on the matter. But a book has just been published by a British officer, who, if he had not been otherwise and more actively employed, could not only have written all my books about landscape and picture, but is very singularly also of one mind with me, (God knows of how few Englishmen I can now say so,) on matters regarding the Queen's safety, and the Nation's honour. Of whose book ("Far out: Rovings retold"), since various passages will be given in my subsequent terminal notes, I will content myself with quoting for the end of my Preface, the memorable words which Colonel Butler himself quotes, as spoken to the British Parliament by its last Conservative leader, a British officer who had also served with honour and success.
The Duke of Wellington said: "It is already well known to your Lordships that of the troops which our gracious Sovereign did me the honour to entrust to my command at various periods during the war—a war undertaken for the express purpose of securing the happy institutions and independence of the country—at least one half were Roman Catholics. My Lords, when I call your recollection to this fact, I am sure all further eulogy is unnecessary. Your Lordships are well aware for what length of period and under what difficult circumstances they maintained the Empire buoyant upon the flood which overwhelmed the thrones and wrecked the institutions of every other people;—how they kept alive the only spark of freedom which was left unextinguished in Europe.... My Lords, it is mainly to the Irish Catholics that we all owe our proud predominance in our military career, and that I personally am indebted for the laurels with which you have been pleased to decorate my brow.... We must confess, my Lords, that without Catholic blood and Catholic valour no victory could ever have been obtained, and the first military talents might have been exerted in vain."
Let these noble words of tender Justice be the first example to my young readers of what all History ought to be. It has been told them, in the Laws of Fesole, that all great Art is Praise. So is all faithful History, and all high Philosophy. For these three, Art, History, and Philosophy, are each but one part of the Heavenly Wisdom, which sees not as man seeth, but with Eternal Charity; and because she rejoices not in Iniquity, therefore rejoices in the Truth.
For true knowledge is of Virtues only; of poisons and vices, it is Hecate who teaches, not Athena. And of all wisdom, chiefly the Politician's must consist in this divine Prudence; it is not, indeed, always necessary for men to know the virtues of their friends, or their masters; since the friend will still manifest, and the master use. But woe to the Nation which is too cruel to cherish the virtue of its subjects, and too cowardly to recognize that of its enemies!
THE BIBLE OF AMIENS.
BY THE RIVERS OF WATERS.
The intelligent English traveller, in this fortunate age for him, is aware that, half-way between Boulogne and Paris, there is a complex railway-station, into which his train, in its relaxing speed, rolls him with many more than the average number of bangs and bumps prepared, in the access of every important French gare, to startle the drowsy or distrait passenger into a sense of his situation.
He probably also remembers that at this halting-place in mid-journey there is a well-served buffet, at which he has the privilege of "Dix minutes d'arret."
He is not, however, always so distinctly conscious that these ten minutes of arrest are granted to him within not so many minutes' walk of the central square of a city which was once the Venice of France.
Putting the lagoon islands out of question, the French River-Queen was nearly as large in compass as Venice herself; and divided, not by slow currents of ebbing and returning tide, but by eleven beautiful trout streams, of which some four or five are as large, each separately, as our Surrey Wandle, or as Isaac Walton's Dove; and which, branching out of one strong current above the city, and uniting again after they have eddied through its streets, are bordered, as they flow down, (fordless except where the two Edwards rode them, the day before Crecy,) to the sands of St. Valery, by groves of aspen, and glades of poplar, whose grace and gladness seem to spring in every stately avenue instinct with the image of the just man's life,—"Erit tanquam lignum quod plantatum est secus decursus aquarum."
But the Venice of Picardy owed her name, not to the beauty of her streams merely, but to their burden. She was a worker, like the Adriatic princes, in gold and glass, in stone, wood, and ivory; she was skilled like an Egyptian in the weaving of fine linen; dainty as the maids of Judah in divers colours of needlework. And of these, the fruits of her hands, praising her in her own gates, she sent also portions to stranger nations, and her fame went out into all lands.
"Un reglement de l'echevinage, du 12^me avril 1566, fait voir qu'on fabriquait a cette epoque, des velours de toutes couleurs pour meubles, des colombettes a grands et petits carreaux, des burailles croises, qu'on expediait en Allemagne—en Espagne, en Turquie, et en Barbarie!"
All-coloured velvets, pearl-iridescent colombettes! (I wonder what they may be?) and sent to vie with the variegated carpet of the Turk, and glow upon the arabesque towers of Barbary! Was not this a phase of provincial Picard life which an intelligent English traveller might do well to inquire into? Why should this fountain of rainbows leap up suddenly here by Somme; and a little Frankish maid write herself the sister of Venice, and the servant of Carthage and of Tyre?
[Footnote 1: M. H. Dusevel, Histoire de la Ville d'Amiens. Amiens, Caron et Lambert, 1848; p. 305.]
[Footnote 2: Carpaccio trusts for the chief splendour of any festa in cities to the patterns of the draperies hung out of windows.]
And if she, why not others also of our northern villages? Has the intelligent traveller discerned anything, in the country, or in its shores, on his way from the gate of Calais to the gare of Amiens, of special advantage for artistic design, or for commercial enterprise? He has seen league after league of sandy dunes. We also, we, have our sands by Severn, by Lune, by Solway. He has seen extensive plains of useful and not unfragrant peat,—an article sufficiently accessible also to our Scotch and Irish industries. He has seen many a broad down and jutting cliff of purest chalk; but, opposite, the perfide Albion gleams no whit less blanche beyond the blue. Pure waters he has seen, issuing out of the snowy rock; but are ours less bright at Croydon, at Guildford, or at Winchester? And yet one never heard of treasures sent from Solway sands to African; nor that the builders at Romsey could give lessons in colour to the builders at Granada? What can it be, in the air or the earth—in her stars or in her sunlight—that fires the heart and quickens the eyes of the little white-capped Amienoise soubrette, till she can match herself against Penelope?
The intelligent English traveller has of course no time to waste on any of these questions. But if he has bought his ham-sandwich, and is ready for the "En voiture, messieurs," he may perhaps condescend for an instant to hear what a lounger about the place, neither wasteful of his time, nor sparing of it, can suggest as worth looking at, when his train glides out of the station.
He will see first, and doubtless with the respectful admiration which an Englishman is bound to bestow upon such objects, the coal-sheds and carriage-sheds of the station itself, extending in their ashy and oily splendours for about a quarter of a mile out of the town; and then, just as the train gets into speed, under a large chimney tower, which he cannot see to nearly the top of, but will feel overcast by the shadow of its smoke, he may see, if he will trust his intelligent head out of the window, and look back, fifty or fifty-one (I am not sure of my count to a unit) similar chimneys, all similarly smoking, all with similar works attached, oblongs of brown brick wall, with portholes numberless of black square window. But in the midst of these fifty tall things that smoke, he will see one, a little taller than any, and more delicate, that does not smoke; and in the midst of these fifty masses of blank wall enclosing 'works'—and doubtless producing works profitable and honourable to France and the world—he will see one mass of wall—not blank, but strangely wrought by the hands of foolish men of long ago, for the purpose of enclosing or producing no manner of profitable work whatsoever, but one—
"This is the work of God; that ye should believe on Him whom He hath sent"!
Leaving the intelligent traveller now to fulfil his vow of pilgrimage to Paris,—or wherever else God may be sending him,—I will suppose that an intelligent Eton boy or two, or thoughtful English girl, may care quietly to walk with me as far as this same spot of commanding view, and to consider what the workless—shall we say also worthless?—building, and its unshadowed minaret, may perhaps farther mean.
Minaret I have called it, for want of better English word. Fleche—arrow—is its proper name; vanishing into the air you know not where, by the mere fineness of it. Flameless—motionless—hurtless—the fine arrow; unplumed, unpoisoned, and unbarbed; aimless—shall we say also, readers young and old, travelling or abiding? It, and the walls it rises from—what have they once meant? What meaning have they left in them yet, for you, or for the people that live round them, and never look up as they pass by?
Suppose we set ourselves first to learn how they came there.
At the birth of Christ, all this hillside, and the brightly-watered plain below, with the corn-yellow champaign above, were inhabited by a Druid-taught race, wild enough in thoughts and ways, but under Roman government, and gradually becoming accustomed to hear the names, and partly to confess the power, of Roman gods. For three hundred years after the birth of Christ they heard the name of no other God.
Three hundred years! and neither apostles nor inheritors of apostleship had yet gone into all the world and preached the gospel to every creature. Here, on their peaty ground, the wild people, still trusting in Pomona for apples, in Silvanus for acorns, in Ceres for bread, and in Proserpina for rest, hoped but the season's blessing from the Gods of Harvest, and feared no eternal anger from the Queen of Death.
But at last, three hundred years being past and gone, in the year of Christ 301, there came to this hillside of Amiens, on the sixth day of the Ides of October, the Messenger of a new Life.
His name, Firminius (I suppose) in Latin, Firmin in French,—so to be remembered here in Picardy. Firmin, not Firminius; as Denis, not Dionysius; coming out of space—no one tells what part of space. But received by the pagan Amienois with surprised welcome, and seen of them—forty days—many days, we may read—preaching acceptably, and binding with baptismal vows even persons in good society: and that in such numbers, that at last he is accused to the Roman governor, by the priests of Jupiter and Mercury, as one turning the world upside-down. And in the last day of the Forty—or of the indefinite many meant by Forty—he is beheaded, as martyrs ought to be, and his ministrations in a mortal body ended.
The old, old story, you say? Be it so; you will the more easily remember it. The Amienois remembered it so carefully, that, twelve hundred years afterwards, in the sixteenth century, they thought good to carve and paint the four stone pictures Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4 of our first choice photographs. (N. B.—This series is not yet arranged, but is distinct from that referred to in Chapter IV. See Appendix II.). Scene 1st, St. Firmin arriving; scene 2nd, St. Firmin preaching; scene 3rd, St. Firmin baptizing; and scene 4th, St. Firmin beheaded, by an executioner with very red legs, and an attendant dog of the character of the dog in 'Faust,' of whom we may have more to say presently.
Following in the meantime the tale of St. Firmin, as of old time known, his body was received, and buried, by a Roman senator, his disciple, (a kind of Joseph of Arimathea to St. Firmin,) in the Roman senator's own garden. Who also built a little oratory over his grave. The Roman senator's son built a church to replace the oratory, dedicated it to Our Lady of Martyrs, and established it as an episcopal seat—the first of the French nation's. A very notable spot for the French nation, surely? One deserving, perhaps, some little memory or monument,—cross, tablet, or the like? Where, therefore, do you suppose this first cathedral of French Christianity stood, and with what monument has it been honoured?
It stood where we now stand, companion mine, whoever you may be; and the monument wherewith it has been honoured is this—chimney, whose gonfalon of smoke overshadows us—the latest effort of modern art in Amiens, the chimney of St. Acheul.
The first cathedral, you observe, of the French nation; more accurately, the first germ of cathedral for the French nation—who are not yet here; only this grave of a martyr is here, and this church of Our Lady of Martyrs, abiding on the hillside, till the Roman power pass away.
Falling together with it, and trampled down by savage tribes, alike the city and the shrine; the grave forgotten,—when at last the Franks themselves pour from the north, and the utmost wave of them, lapping along these downs of Somme, is here stayed, and the Frankish standard planted, and the French kingdom throned.
Here their first capital, here the first footsteps of the Frank in his France! Think of it. All over the south are Gauls, Burgundians, Bretons, heavier-hearted nations of sullen mind: at their outmost brim and border, here at last are the Franks, the source of all Franchise, for this our Europe. You have heard the word in England, before now, but English word for it is none! Honesty we have of our own; but Frankness we must learn of these: nay, all the western nations of us are in a few centuries more to be known by this name of Frank. Franks, of Paris that is to be, in time to come; but French of Paris is in year of grace 500 an unknown tongue in Paris, as much as in Stratford-att-ye-Bowe. French of Amiens is the kingly and courtly form of Christian speech, Paris lying yet in Lutetian clay, to develope into tile-field, perhaps, in due time. Here, by soft-glittering Somme, reign Clovis and his Clotilde.
[Footnote 3: The first fixed and set-down footsteps; wandering tribes called Franks, had overswept the country, and recoiled, again and again. But this invasion of the so-called Salian Franks, never retreats again.]
And by St. Firmin's grave speaks now another gentle evangelist, and the first Frank king's prayer to the King of kings is made to Him, known only as "the God of Clotilde."
I must ask the reader's patience now with a date or two, and stern facts—two—three—or more.
Clodion, the leader of the first Franks who reach irrevocably beyond the Rhine, fights his way through desultory Roman cohorts as far as Amiens, and takes it, in 445.
[Footnote 4: See note at end of chapter, as also for the allusions in p. 8, to the battle of Soissons.]
Two years afterwards, at his death, the scarcely asserted throne is seized—perhaps inevitably—by the tutor of his children, Merovee, whose dynasty is founded on the defeat of Attila at Chalons.
He died in 457. His son Childeric, giving himself up to the love of women, and scorned by the Frank soldiery, is driven into exile, the Franks choosing rather to live under the law of Rome than under a base chief of their own. He receives asylum at the court of the king of Thuringia, and abides there. His chief officer in Amiens, at his departure, breaks a ring in two, and, giving him the half of it, tells him, when the other half is sent, to return.
And, after many days, the half of the broken ring is sent, and he returns, and is accepted king by his Franks.
The Thuringian queen follows him, (I cannot find if her husband is first dead—still less, if dead, how dying,) and offers herself to him for his wife.
"I have known thy usefulness, and that thou art very strong; and I have come to live with thee. Had I known, in parts beyond sea, any one more useful than thou, I should have sought to live with him."
He took her for his wife, and their son is Clovis.
A wonderful story; how far in literalness true is of no manner of moment to us; the myth, and power of it, do manifest the nature of the French kingdom, and prophesy its future destiny. Personal valour, personal beauty, loyalty to kings, love of women, disdain of unloving marriage, note all these things for true, and that in the corruption of these will be the last death of the Frank, as in their force was his first glory.
Personal valour, worth. Utilitas, the keystone of all. Birth nothing, except as gifting with valour;—Law of primogeniture unknown;—Propriety of conduct, it appears, for the present, also nowhere! (but we are all pagans yet, remember).
Let us get our dates and our geography, at any rate, gathered out of the great 'nowhere' of confused memory, and set well together, thus far.
457. Merovee dies. The useful Childeric, counting his exile, and reign in Amiens, together, is King altogether twenty-four years, 457 to 481, and during his reign Odoacer ends the Roman empire in Italy, 476.
481. Clovis is only fifteen when he succeeds his father, as King of the Franks in Amiens. At this time a fragment of Roman power remains isolated in central France, while four strong and partly savage nations form a cross round this dying centre: the Frank on the north, the Breton on the west, the Burgundian on the east, the Visigoth strongest of all and gentlest, in the south, from Loire to the sea.
Sketch for yourself, first, a map of France, as large as you like, as in Plate I., fig. 1, marking only the courses of the five rivers, Somme, Seine, Loire, Saone, Rhone; then, rudely, you find it was divided at the time thus, fig. 2: Fleur-de-lysee part, Frank; , Breton; ///, Burgundian; =, Visigoth. I am not sure how far these last reached across Rhone into Provence, but I think best to indicate Provence as semee with roses.
Now, under Clovis, the Franks fight three great battles. The first, with the Romans, near Soissons, which they win, and become masters of France as far as the Loire. Copy the rough map fig. 2, and put the fleur-de-lys all over the middle of it, extinguishing the Romans (fig. 3). This battle was won by Clovis, I believe, before he married Clotilde. He wins his princess by it: cannot get his pretty vase, however, to present to her. Keep that story well in your mind, and the battle of Soissons, as winning mid-France for the French, and ending the Romans there, for ever. Secondly, after he marries Clotilde, the wild Germans attack him from the north, and he has to fight for life and throne at Tolbiac. This is the battle in which he prays to the God of Clotilde, and quits himself of the Germans by His help. Whereupon he is crowned in Rheims by St. Remy.
And now, in the new strength of his Christianity, and his twin victory over Rome and Germany, and his love for his queen, and his ambition for his people, he looks south on that vast Visigothic power, between Loire and the snowy mountains. Shall Christ, and the Franks, not be stronger than villainous Visigoths 'who are Arians also'? All his Franks are with him, in that opinion. So he marches against the Visigoths, meets them and their Alaric at Poitiers, ends their Alaric and their Arianism, and carries his faithful Franks to the Pic du Midi.
And so now you must draw the map of France once more, and put the fleur-de-lys all over its central mass from Calais to the Pyrenees: only Brittany still on the west, Burgundy in the east, and the white Provence rose beyond Rhone. And now poor little Amiens has become a mere border town like our Durham, and Somme a border streamlet like our Tyne. Loire and Seine have become the great French rivers, and men will be minded to build cities by these; where the well-watered plains, not of peat, but richest pasture, may repose under the guard of saucy castles on the crags, and moated towers on the islands. But now let us think a little more closely what our changed symbols in the map may mean—five fleur-de-lys for level bar.
They don't mean, certainly, that all the Goths are gone, and nobody but Franks in France? The Franks have not massacred Visigothic man, woman, and child, from Loire to Garonne. Nay, where their own throne is still set by the Somme, the peat-bred people whom they found there, live there still, though subdued. Frank, or Goth, or Roman may fluctuate hither and thither, in chasing or flying troops: but, unchanged through all the gusts of war, the rural people whose huts they pillage, whose farms they ravage, and over whose arts they reign, must still be diligently, silently, and with no time for lamentation, ploughing, sowing, cattle-breeding!
Else how could Frank or Hun, Visigoth or Roman, live for a month, or fight for a day?
Whatever the name, or the manners, of their masters, the ground delvers must be the same; and the goatherd of the Pyrenees, and the vine-dresser of Garonne, and the milkmaid of Picardy, give them what lords you may, abide in their land always, blossoming as the trees of the field, and enduring as the crags of the desert. And these, the warp and first substance of the nation, are divided, not by dynasties, but by climates; and are strong here, and helpless there, by privileges which no invading tyrants can abolish, and through faults which no preaching hermit can repress. Now, therefore, please let us leave our history a minute or two, and read the lessons of constant earth and sky.
In old times, when one posted from Calais to Paris, there was about half an hour's trot on the level, from the gate of Calais to the long chalk hill, which had to be climbed before arriving at the first post-house in the village of Marquise.
That chalk rise, virtually, is the front of France; that last bit of level north of it, virtually the last of Flanders; south of it, stretches now a district of chalk and fine building limestone,—(if you keep your eyes open, you may see a great quarry of it on the west of the railway, half-way between Calais and Boulogne, where once was a blessed little craggy dingle opening into velvet lawns;)—this high, but never mountainous, calcareous tract, sweeping round the chalk basin of Paris away to Caen on one side, and Nancy on the other, and south as far as Bourges, and the Limousin. This limestone tract, with its keen fresh air, everywhere arable surface, and quarriable banks above well-watered meadow, is the real country of the French. Here only are their arts clearly developed. Farther south they are Gascons, or Limousins, or Auvergnats, or the like. Westward, grim-granitic Bretons; eastward, Alpine-bearish Burgundians: here only, on the chalk and finely-knit marble, between, say, Amiens and Chartres one way, and between Caen and Rheims on the other, have you real France.
Of which, before we carry on the farther vital history, I must ask the reader to consider with me, a little, how history, so called, has been for the most part written, and of what particulars it usually consists.
Suppose that the tale of King Lear were a true one; and that a modern historian were giving the abstract of it in a school manual, purporting to contain all essential facts in British history valuable to British youth in competitive examination. The story would be related somewhat after this manner:—
"The reign of the last king of the seventy-ninth dynasty closed in a series of events with the record of which it is painful to pollute the pages of history. The weak old man wished to divide his kingdom into dowries for his three daughters; but on proposing this arrangement to them, finding it received by the youngest with coldness and reserve, he drove her from his court, and divided the kingdom between his two elder children.
"The youngest found refuge at the court of France, where ultimately the prince royal married her. But the two elder daughters, having obtained absolute power, treated their father at first with disrespect, and soon with contumely. Refused at last even the comforts necessary to his declining years, the old king, in a transport of rage, left the palace, with, it is said, only the court fool for an attendant, and wandered, frantic and half naked, during the storms of winter, in the woods of Britain.
"Hearing of these events, his youngest daughter hastily collected an army, and invaded the territory of her ungrateful sisters, with the object of restoring her father to his throne; but, being met by a well disciplined force, under the command of her eldest sister's paramour, Edmund, bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester, was herself defeated, thrown into prison, and soon afterwards strangled by the adulterer's order. The old king expired on receiving the news of her death; and the participators in these crimes soon after received their reward; for the two wicked queens being rivals for the affections of the bastard, the one of them who was regarded by him with less favour poisoned the other, and afterwards killed herself. Edmund afterwards met his death at the hand of his brother, the legitimate son of Gloucester, under whose rule, with that of the Earl of Kent, the kingdom remained for several succeeding years."
Imagine this succinctly graceful recital of what the historian conceived to be the facts, adorned with violently black and white woodcuts, representing the blinding of Gloucester, the phrenzy of Lear, the strangling of Cordelia, and the suicide of Goneril, and you have a type of popular history in the nineteenth century; which is, you may perceive after a little reflection, about as profitable reading for young persons (so far as regards the general colour and purity of their thoughts) as the Newgate Calendar would be; with this farther condition of incalculably greater evil, that, while the calendar of prison-crime would teach a thoughtful youth the dangers of low life and evil company, the calendar of kingly crime overthrows his respect for any manner of government, and his faith in the ordinances of Providence itself.
Books of loftier pretence, written by bankers, members of Parliament, or orthodox clergymen, are of course not wanting; and show that the progress of civilization consists in the victory of usury over ecclesiastical prejudice, or in the establishment of the Parliamentary privileges of the borough of Puddlecombe, or in the extinction of the benighted superstitions of the Papacy by the glorious light of Reformation. Finally, you have the broadly philosophical history, which proves to you that there is no evidence whatever of any overruling Providence in human affairs; that all virtuous actions have selfish motives; and that a scientific selfishness, with proper telegraphic communications, and perfect knowledge of all the species of Bacteria, will entirely secure the future well-being of the upper classes of society, and the dutiful resignation of those beneath them.
Meantime, the two ignored powers—the Providence of Heaven, and the virtue of men—have ruled, and rule, the world, not invisibly; and they are the only powers of which history has ever to tell any profitable truth. Under all sorrow, there is the force of virtue; over all ruin, the restoring charity of God. To these alone we have to look; in these alone we may understand the past, and predict the future, destiny of the ages.
I return to the story of Clovis, king now of all central France. Fix the year 500 in your minds as the approximate date of his baptism at Rheims, and of St. Remy's sermon to him, telling him of the sufferings and passion of Christ, till Clovis sprang from his throne, grasping his spear, and crying, "Had I been there with my brave Franks, I would have avenged His wrongs."
"There is little doubt," proceeds the cockney historian, "that the conversion of Clovis was as much a matter of policy as of faith." But the cockney historian had better limit his remarks on the characters and faiths of men to those of the curates who have recently taken orders in his fashionable neighbourhood, or the bishops who have lately preached to the population of its manufacturing suburbs. Frankish kings were made of other clay.
The Christianity of Clovis does not indeed produce any fruits of the kind usually looked for in a modern convert. We do not hear of his repenting ever so little of any of his sins, nor resolving to lead a new life in any the smallest particular. He had not been impressed with convictions of sin at the battle of Tolbiac; nor, in asking for the help of the God of Clotilde, had he felt or professed the remotest intention of changing his character, or abandoning his projects. What he was, before he believed in his queen's God, he only more intensely afterwards became, in the confidence of that before unknown God's supernatural help. His natural gratitude to the Delivering Power, and pride in its protection, added only fierceness to his soldiership, and deepened his political enmities with the rancour of religions indignation. No more dangerous snare is set by the fiends for human frailty than the belief that our own enemies are also the enemies of God; and it is perfectly conceivable to me that the conduct of Clovis might have been the more unscrupulous, precisely in the measure that his faith was more sincere.
Had either Clovis or Clotilde fully understood the precepts of their Master, the following history of France, and of Europe, would have been other than it is. What they could understand, or in any wise were taught, you will find that they obeyed, and were blessed in obeying. But their history is complicated with that of several other persons, respecting whom we must note now a few too much forgotten particulars.
If from beneath the apse of Amiens Cathedral we take the street leading due south, leaving the railroad station on the left, it brings us to the foot of a gradually ascending hill, some half a mile long—a pleasant and quiet walk enough, terminating on the level of the highest land near Amiens; whence, looking back, the Cathedral is seen beneath us, all but the fleche, our gained hill-top being on a level with its roof-ridge: and, to the south, the plain of France.
Somewhere about this spot, or in the line between it and St. Acheul, stood the ancient Roman gate of the Twins, whereon were carved Romulus and Remus being suckled by the wolf; and out of which, one bitter winter's day, a hundred and seventy years ago when Clovis was baptized—had ridden a Roman soldier, wrapped in his horseman's cloak, on the causeway which was part of the great Roman road from Lyons to Boulogne.
[Footnote 5: More properly, his knight's cloak; in all likelihood the trabea, with purple and white stripes, dedicate to the kings of Rome, and chiefly to Romulus.]
And it is well worth your while also, some frosty autumn or winter day when the east wind is high, to feel the sweep of it at this spot, remembering what chanced here, memorable to all men, and serviceable, in that winter of the year 332, when men were dying for cold in Amiens streets:—namely, that the Roman horseman, scarce gone out of the city gate, was met by a naked beggar, shivering with cold; and that, seeing no other way of shelter for him, he drew his sword, divided his own cloak in two, and gave him half of it.
No ruinous gift, nor even enthusiastically generous: Sydney's cup of cold water needed more self-denial; and I am well assured that many a Christian child of our day, himself well warmed and clad, meeting one naked and cold, would be ready enough to give the whole cloak off his own shoulders to the necessitous one, if his better-advised nurse, or mamma, would let him. But this Roman soldier was no Christian, and did his serene charity in simplicity, yet with prudence.
Nevertheless, that same night, he beheld in a dream the Lord Jesus, who stood before him in the midst of angels, having on his shoulders the half of the cloak he had bestowed on the beggar.
And Jesus said to the angels that were around him, "Know ye who hath thus arrayed me? My servant Martin, though yet unbaptized, has done this." And Martin after this vision hastened to receive baptism, being then in his twenty-third year.
[Footnote 6: Mrs. Jameson, Legendary Art, Vol. II., p. 721.]
Whether these things ever were so, or how far so, credulous or incredulous reader, is no business whatever of yours or mine. What is, and shall be, everlastingly, so,—namely, the infallible truth of the lesson herein taught, and the actual effect of the life of St. Martin on the mind of Christendom,—is, very absolutely, the business of every rational being in any Christian realm.
You are to understand, then, first of all, that the especial character of St. Martin is a serene and meek charity to all creatures. He is not a preaching saint—still less a persecuting one: not even an anxious one. Of his prayers we hear little—of his wishes, nothing. What he does always, is merely the right thing at the right moment;—rightness and kindness being in his mind one: an extremely exemplary saint, to my notion.
Converted and baptized—and conscious of having seen Christ—he nevertheless gives his officers no trouble whatever—does not try to make proselytes in his cohort. "It is Christ's business, surely!—if He wants them, He may appear to them as He has to me," seems the feeling of his first baptized days. He remains seventeen years in the army, on those tranquil terms.
At the end of that time, thinking it might be well to take other service, he asks for his dismissal from the Emperor Julian,—on whose accusation of faintheartedness, Martin offers, unarmed, to lead his cohort into battle, bearing only the sign of the cross. Julian takes him at his word,—keeps him in ward till time of battle comes; but, the day before he counts on putting him to that war ordeal, the barbarian enemy sends embassy with irrefusable offers of submission and peace.
The story is not often dwelt upon: how far literally true, again observe, does not in the least matter;—here is the lesson for ever given of the way in which a Christian soldier should meet his enemies. Which, had John Bunyan's Mr. Great-heart understood, the Celestial gates had opened by this time to many a pilgrim who has failed to hew his path up to them with the sword of sharpness.
But true in some practical and effectual way the story is; for after a while, without any oratorizing, anathematizing, or any manner of disturbance, we find the Roman Knight made Bishop of Tours, and becoming an influence of unmixed good to all mankind, then, and afterwards. And virtually the same story is repeated of his bishop's robe as of his knight's cloak—not to be rejected because so probable an invention; for it is just as probable an act.
Going, in his full robes, to say prayers in church, with one of his deacons, he came across some unhappily robeless person by the wayside; for whom he forthwith orders his deacon to provide some manner of coat, or gown.
The deacon objecting that no apparel of that profane nature is under his hand, St. Martin, with his customary serenity, takes off his own episcopal stole, or whatsoever flowing stateliness it might be, throws it on the destitute shoulders, and passes on to perform indecorous public service in his waistcoat, or such mediaeval nether attire as remained to him.
But, as he stood at the altar, a globe of light appeared above his head; and when he raised his bare arms with the Host—the angels were seen round him, hanging golden chains upon them, and jewels, not of the earth.
Incredible to you in the nature of things, wise reader, and too palpably a gloss of monkish folly on the older story?
Be it so: yet in this fable of monkish folly, understood with the heart, would have been the chastisement and check of every form of the church's pride and sensuality, which in our day have literally sunk the service of God and His poor into the service of the clergyman and his rich; and changed what was once the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, into the spangling of Pantaloons in an ecclesiastical Masquerade.
But one more legend,—and we have enough to show us the roots of this saint's strange and universal power over Christendom.
"What peculiarly distinguished St. Martin was his sweet, serious, unfailing serenity; no one had ever seen him angry, or sad, or, gay; there was nothing in his heart but piety to God and pity for men. The Devil, who was particularly envious of his virtues, detested above all his exceeding charity, because it was the most inimical to his own power, and one day reproached him mockingly that he so soon received into favour the fallen and the repentant. But St. Martin answered him sorrowfully, saying, 'Oh most miserable that thou art! if thou also couldst cease to persecute and seduce wretched men, if thou also couldst repent, thou also shouldst find mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.'"
[Footnote 7: Mrs. Jameson, Vol. II., p. 722.]
In this gentleness was his strength; and the issue of it is best to be estimated by comparing its scope with that of the work of St. Firmin. The impatient missionary riots and rants about Amiens' streets—insults, exhorts, persuades, baptizes,—turns everything, as aforesaid, upside down for forty days: then gets his head cut off, and is never more named, out of Amiens. St. Martin teazes nobody, spends not a breath in unpleasant exhortation, understands, by Christ's first lesson to himself, that undipped people may be as good as dipped if their hearts are clean; helps, forgives, and cheers, (companionable even to the loving-cup,) as readily the clown as the king; he is the patron of honest drinking; the stuffing of your Martinmas goose is fragrant in his nostrils, and sacred to him the last kindly rays of departing summer. And somehow—the idols totter before him far and near—the Pagan gods fade, his Christ becomes all men's Christ—his name is named over new shrines innumerable in all lands; high on the Roman hills, lowly in English fields;—St. Augustine baptized his first English converts in St. Martin's church at Canterbury; and the Charing Cross station itself has not yet effaced wholly from London minds his memory or his name.
That story of the Episcopal Robe is the last of St. Martin respecting which I venture to tell you that it is wiser to suppose it literally true, than a mere myth; myth, however, of the deepest value and beauty it remains assuredly: and this really last story I have to tell, which I admit you will be wiser in thinking a fable than exactly true, nevertheless had assuredly at its root some grain of fact (sprouting a hundred-fold) cast on good ground by a visible and unforgettable piece of St. Martin's actual behaviour in high company; while, as a myth, it is every whit and for ever valuable and comprehensive.
St. Martin, then, as the tale will have it, was dining one day at the highest of tables in the terrestrial globe—namely, with the Emperor and Empress of Germany! You need not inquire what Emperor, or which of the Emperor's wives! The Emperor of Germany is, in all early myths, the expression for the highest sacred power of the State, as the Pope is the highest sacred power of the Church. St. Martin was dining then, as aforesaid, with the Emperor, of course sitting next him on his left—Empress opposite on his right: everything orthodox. St. Martin much enjoying his dinner, and making himself generally agreeable to the company: not in the least a John Baptist sort of a saint. You are aware also that in Royal feasts in those days persons of much inferior rank in society were allowed in the hall: got behind people's chairs, and saw and heard what was going on, while they unobtrusively picked up crumbs, and licked trenchers.
When the dinner was a little forward, and time for wine came, the Emperor fills his own cup—fills the Empress's—fills St. Martin's,—affectionately hobnobs with St. Martin. The equally loving, and yet more truly believing, Empress, looks across the table, humbly, but also royally, expecting St. Martin, of course, next to hobnob with her. St. Martin looks round, first, deliberately; becomes aware of a tatterdemalion and thirsty-looking soul of a beggar at his chair side, who has managed to get his cup filled somehow, also—by a charitable lacquey.
St. Martin turns his back on the Empress, and hobnobs with him!
For which charity—mythic if you like, but evermore exemplary—he remains, as aforesaid, the patron of good-Christian topers to this hour.
As gathering years told upon him, he seems to have felt that he had carried weight of crozier long enough—that busy Tours must now find a busier Bishop—that, for himself, he might innocently henceforward take his pleasure and his rest where the vine grew and the lark sang. For his episcopal palace, he takes a little cave in the chalk cliffs of the up-country river: arranges all matters therein, for bed and board, at small cost. Night by night the stream murmurs to him, day by day the vine-leaves give their shade; and, daily by the horizon's breadth so much nearer Heaven, the fore-running sun goes down for him beyond the glowing water;—there, where now the peasant woman trots homewards between her panniers, and the saw rests in the half-cleft wood, and the village spire rises grey against the farthest light, in Turner's 'Loireside.'
[Footnote 8: Modern Painters, Plate 73.]
All which things, though not themselves without profit, my special reason for telling you now, has been that you might understand the significance of what chanced first on Clovis' march south against the Visigoths.
"Having passed the Loire at Tours, he traversed the lands of the abbey of St. Martin, which he declared inviolate, and refused permission to his soldiers to touch anything, save water and grass for their horses. So rigid were his orders, and the obedience he exacted in this respect, that a Frankish soldier having taken, without the consent of the owner, some hay, which belonged to a poor man, saying in raillery "that it was but grass," he caused the aggressor to be put to death, exclaiming that "Victory could not be expected, if St. Martin should be offended."
Now, mark you well, this passage of the Loire at Tours is virtually the fulfilment of the proper bounds of the French kingdom, and the sign of its approved and securely set power is "Honour to the poor!" Even a little grass is not to be stolen from a poor man, on pain of Death. So wills the Christian knight of Roman armies; throned now high with God. So wills the first Christian king of far victorious Franks;—here baptized to God in Jordan of his goodly land, as he goes over to possess it.
Until that same Sign should be read backwards from a degenerate throne;—until, message being brought that the poor of the French people had no bread to eat, answer should be returned to them "They may eat grass." Whereupon—by St. Martin's faubourg, and St. Martin's gate—there go forth commands from the Poor Man's Knight against the King—which end his Feasting.
And be this much remembered by you, of the power over French souls, past and to come, of St. Martin of Tours.
NOTES TO CHAPTER I.
The reader will please observe that notes immediately necessary to the understanding of the text will be given, with numbered references, under the text itself; while questions of disputing authorities, or quotations of supporting documents will have lettered references, and be thrown together at the end of each chapter. One good of this method will be that, after the numbered notes are all right, if I see need of farther explanation, as I revise the press, I can insert a letter referring to a final note without confusion of the standing types. There will be some use also in the final notes, in summing the chapters, or saying what is to be more carefully remembered of them. Thus just now it is of no consequence to remember that the first taking of Amiens was in 445, because that is not the founding of the Merovingian dynasty; neither that Merovaeus seized the throne in 447 and died ten years later. The real date to be remembered is 481, when Clovis himself comes to the throne, a boy of fifteen; and the three battles of Clovis' reign to be remembered are Soissons, Tolbiac, and Poitiers—remembering also that this was the first of the three great battles of Poitiers;—how the Poitiers district came to have such importance as a battle-position, we must afterwards discover if we can. Of Queen Clotilde and her flight from Burgundy to her Frank lover we must hear more in next chapter,—the story of the vase at Soissons is given in "The Pictorial History of France," but must be deferred also, with such comment as it needs, to next chapter; for I wish the reader's mind, in the close of this first number, to be left fixed on two descriptions of the modern 'Frank' (taking that word in its Saracen sense), as distinguished from the modern Saracen. The first description is by Colonel Butler, entirely true and admirable, except in the implied extension of the contrast to olden time: for the Saxon soul under Alfred, the Teutonic under Charlemagne, and the Frank under St. Louis, were quite as religious as any Asiatic's, though more practical; it is only the modern mob of kingless miscreants in the West, who have sunk themselves by gambling, swindling, machine-making, and gluttony, into the scurviest louts that have ever fouled the Earth with the carcases she lent them.
[Footnote 9: The plan for numbered and lettered references is not followed after the first chapter.]
* * * * *
"Of the features of English character brought to light by the spread of British dominion in Asia, there is nothing more observable than the contrast between the religious bias of Eastern thought and the innate absence of religion in the Anglo-Saxon mind. Turk and Greek, Buddhist and Armenian, Copt and Parsee, all manifest in a hundred ways of daily life the great fact of their belief in a God. In their vices as well as in their virtues the recognition of Deity is dominant.
"With the Western, on the contrary, the outward form of practising belief in a God is a thing to be half-ashamed of—something to hide. A procession of priests in the Strada Reale would probably cause an average Briton to regard it with less tolerant eye than he would cast upon a Juggernaut festival in Orissa: but to each alike would he display the same iconoclasm of creed, the same idea, not the less fixed because it is seldom expressed in words: "You pray; therefore I do not think much of you." But there is a deeper difference between East and West lying beneath this incompatibility of temper on the part of modern Englishmen to accept the religious habit of thought in the East. All Eastern peoples possess this habit of thought. It is the one tie which links together their widely differing races. Let us give an illustration of our meaning. On an Austrian Lloyd's steamboat in the Levant a traveller from Beyrout will frequently see strange groups of men crowded together on the quarter-deck. In the morning the missal books of the Greek Church will be laid along the bulwarks of the ship, and a couple of Russian priests, coming from Jerusalem, will be busy muttering mass. A yard to right or left a Turkish pilgrim, returning from Mecca, sits a respectful observer of the scene. It is prayer, and therefore it is holy in his sight. So, too, when the evening hour has come, and the Turk spreads out his bit of carpet for the sunset prayers and obeisance towards Mecca, the Greek looks on in silence, without trace of scorn in his face, for it is again the worship of the Creator by the created. They are both fulfilling the first law of the East—prayer to God; and whether the shrine be Jerusalem, Mecca, or Lhassa, the sanctity of worship surrounds the votary, and protects the pilgrim.
"Into this life comes the Englishman, frequently destitute of one touch of sympathy with the prayers of any people, or the faith of any creed; hence our rule in the East has ever rested, and will ever rest, upon the bayonet. We have never yet got beyond the stage of conquest; never assimilated a people to our ways, never even civilized a single tribe around the wide dominion of our empire. It is curious how frequently a well-meaning Briton will speak of a foreign church or temple as though it had presented itself to his mind in the same light in which the City of London appeared to Blucher—as something to loot. The other idea, that a priest was a person to hang, is one which is also often observable in the British brain. On one occasion, when we were endeavouring to enlighten our minds on the Greek question, as it had presented itself to a naval officer whose vessel had been stationed in Greek and Adriatic waters during our occupation of Corfu and the other Ionian Isles, we could only elicit from our informant the fact that one morning before breakfast he had hanged seventeen priests."
The second passage which I store in these notes for future use, is the supremely magnificent one, out of a book full of magnificence,—if truth be counted as having in it the strength of deed: Alphonse Karr's "Grains de Bon Sens." I cannot praise either this or his more recent "Bourdonnements" to my own heart's content, simply because they are by a man utterly after my own heart, who has been saying in France, this many a year, what I also, this many a year, have been saying in England, neither of us knowing of the other, and both of us vainly. (See pages 11 and 12 of "Bourdonnements.") The passage here given is the sixty-third clause in "Grains de Bon Sens."
"Et tout cela, monsieur, vient de ce qu'il n'y a plus de croyances—de ce qu'on ne croit plus a rien.
"Ah! saperlipopette, monsieur, vous me la baillez belle! Vous dites qu'on ne croit plus a rien! Mais jamais, a aucune epoque, on n'a cru a tant de billevesees, de bourdes, de mensonges, de sottises, d'absurdites qu'aujourd'hui.
"D'abord, on croit a l'incredulite—l'incredulite est une croyance, une religion tres exigeante, qui a ses dogmes, sa liturgie, ses pratiques, ses rites! ...son intolerance, ses superstitions. Nous avons des incredules et des impies jesuites, et des incredules et des impies jansenistes; des impies molinistes, et des impies quietistes; des impies pratiquants, et non pratiquants; des impies indifferents et des impies fanatiques; des incredules cagots et des impies hypocrites et tartuffes.—La religion de l'incredulite ne se refuse meme pas le luxe des heresies.
"On ne croit plus a la bible, je le veux bien, mais on croit aux 'ecritures' des journaux, on croit au 'sacerdoce' des gazettes et carres de papier, et a leurs 'oracles' quotidiens.
"On croit au 'bapteme' de la police correctionnelle et de la Cour d'assises—on appelle 'martyrs' et 'confesseurs' les 'absents' a Noumea et les 'freres' de Suisse, d'Angleterre et de Belgique—et, quand on parle des 'martyrs de la Commune' ca ne s'entend pas des assassines, mais des assassins.
"On se fait enterrer 'civilement,' on ne veut plus sur son cercueil des prieres de l'Eglise, on ne veut ni cierges, ni chants religieux,—mais on veut un cortege portant derriere la biere des immortelles rouges;—on veut une 'oraison,' une 'predication' de Victor Hugo qui a ajoute cette specialite a ses autres specialites, si bien qu'un de ces jours derniers, comme il suivait un convoi en amateur, un croque-mort s'approcha de lui, le poussa du coude, et lui dit en souriant: 'Est-ce que nous n'aurons pas quelque chose de vous, aujourd'hui?'—Et cette predication il la lit ou la recite—ou, s'il ne juge pas a propos 'd'officier' lui-meme, s'il s'agit d'un mort de plus, il envoie pour la psalmodier M. Meurice ou tout autre 'pretre' ou 'enfant de coeur' du 'Dieu,'—A defaut de M. Hugo, s'il s'agit d'un citoyen obscur, on se contente d'une homelie improvisee pour la dixieme fois par n'importe quel depute intransigeant—et le Miserere est remplace par les cris de 'Vive la Republique!' pousses dans le cimetiere.
"On n'entre plus dans les eglises, mais on frequente les brasseries et les cabarets; on y officie, on y celebre les mysteres, on y chante les louanges d'une pretendue republique sacro-sainte, une, indivisible, democratique, sociale, athenienne, intransigeante, despotique, invisible quoique etant partout. On y communie sous differentes especes; le matin (matines) on 'tue le ver' avec le vin blanc,—il y a plus tard les vepres de l'absinthe, auxquelles on se ferait un crime de manquer d'assiduite.
"On ne croit plus en Dieu, mais on croit pieusement en M. Gambetta, en MM. Marcou, Naquet, Barodet, Tartempion, etc., et en toute une longue litanie de saints et de dii minores tels que Goutte-Noire, Polosse, Boriasse et Silibat, le heros lyonnais.
"On croit a 'l'immuabilite' de M. Thiers, qui a dit avec aplomb 'Je ne change jamais,' et qui aujourd'hui est a la fois le protecteur et le protege de ceux qu'il a passe une partie de sa vie a fusilier, et qu'il fusillait encore hier.
'On croit au republicanisme 'immacule' de l'avocat de Cahors qui a jete par-dessus bord tous les principes republicains,—qui est a la fois de son cote le protecteur et le protege de M. Thiers, qui hier l'appelait 'fou furieux,' deportait et fusillait ses amis.
"Tous deux, il est vrai, en meme temps protecteurs hypocrites, et proteges dupes.
"On ne croit plus aux miracles anciens, mais on croit a des miracles nouveaux.
"On croit a une republique sans le respect religieux et presque fanatique des lois.
"On croit qu'on peut s'enrichir en restant imprevoyants, insouciants et paresseux, et autrement que par le travail et l'economie.
"On se croit libre en obeissant aveuglement et betement a deux ou trois coteries.
"On se croit independant parce qu'on a tue ou chasse un lion et qu'on l'a remplace par deux douzaines de caniches teints en jaune.
"On croit avoir conquis le 'suffrage universel' en votant par des mots d'ordre qui en font le contraire du suffrage universel,—mene au vote comme on mene un troupeau au paturage, avec cette difference que ca ne nourrit pas.—D'ailleurs, par ce suffrage universel qu'on croit avoir et qu'on n'a pas,—il faudrait croire que les soldats doivent commander au general, les chevaux mener le cocher;—croire que deux radis valent mieux qu'une truffe, deux cailloux mieux qu'un diamant, deux crottins mieux qu'une rose.
"On se croit en Republique, parce que quelques demi-quarterons de farceurs occupent les memes places, emargent les memes appointements, pratiquent les memes abus, que ceux qu'on a renverses a leur benefice.
"On se croit un peuple opprime, heroique, que brise ses fers, et n'est qu'un domestique capricieux qui aime a changer de maitres.
"On croit au genie d'avocats de sixieme ordre, qui ne se sont jetes dans la politique et n'aspirent au gouvernement despotique de la France que faute d'avoir pu gagner honnetement, sans grand travail, dans l'exercice d'un profession correcte, une vie obscure humectee de chopes.
"On croit que des hommes devoyes, declasses, decaves, fruits secs, etc., qui n'ont etudie que le 'domino a quatre' et le 'bezigue en quinze cents' se reveillent un matin,—apres un sommeil alourdi par le tabac et la biere—possedant la science de la politique, et l'art de la guerre; et aptes a etre dictateurs, generaux, ministres, prefets, sous-prefets, etc.
"Et les soi-disant conservateurs eux-memes croient que la France peut se relever et vivre tant qu'on n'aura pas fait justice de ce pretendu suffrage universel qui est le contraire du suffrage universel.
"Les croyances out subi le sort de ce serpent de la fable—coupe, hache par morceaux, dont chaque troncon devenait un serpent.
"Les croyances se sont changees en monnaie—en billon de credulites.
"Et pour finir la liste bien incomplete des croyances et des credulites—vous croyez, vous, qu'on ne croit a rien!"
UNDER THE DRACHENFELS.
1. Without ignobly trusting the devices of artificial memory—far less slighting the pleasure and power of resolute and thoughtful memory—my younger readers will find it extremely useful to note any coincidences or links of number which may serve to secure in their minds what may be called Dates of Anchorage, round which others, less important, may swing at various cables' lengths.
Thus, it will be found primarily a most simple and convenient arrangement of the years since the birth of Christ, to divide them by fives of centuries,—that is to say, by the marked periods of the fifth, tenth, fifteenth, and, now fast nearing us, twentieth centuries.
And this—at first seemingly formal and arithmetical—division, will be found, as we use it, very singularly emphasized by signs of most notable change in the knowledge, disciplines, and morals of the human race.
2. All dates, it must farther be remembered, falling within the fifth century, begin with the number 4 (401, 402, etc.); and all dates in the tenth century with the number 9 (901, 902, etc.); and all dates in the fifteenth century with the number 14 (1401, 1402, etc.)
In our immediate subject of study, we are concerned with the first of these marked centuries—the fifth—of which I will therefore ask you to observe two very interesting divisions.
All dates of years in that century, we said, must begin with the number 4.
If you halve it for the second figure, you get 42.
And if you double it for the second figure, you get 48.
Add 1, for the third figure, to each of these numbers, and you get 421 and 481, which two dates you will please fasten well down, and let there be no drifting about of them in your heads.
For the first is the date of the birth of Venice herself, and her dukedom, (see 'St. Mark's Rest,' Part I., p. 30); and the second is the date of birth of the French Venice, and her kingdom; Clovis being in that year crowned in Amiens.
3. These are the great Birthdays—Birthdates—in the fifth century, of Nations. Its Deathdays we will count, at another time.
Since, not for dark Rialto's dukedom, nor for fair France's kingdom, only, are these two years to be remembered above all others in the wild fifth century; but because they are also the birth-years of a great Lady, and greater Lord, of all future Christendom—St. Genevieve, and St. Benedict.
Genevieve, the 'white wave' (Laughing water)—the purest of all the maids that have been named from the sea-foam or the rivulet's ripple, unsullied,—not the troubled and troubling Aphrodite, but the Leucothea of Ulysses, the guiding wave of deliverance.
White wave on the blue—whether of pure lake or sunny sea—(thenceforth the colours of France, blue field with white lilies), she is always the type of purity, in active brightness of the entire soul and life—(so distinguished from the quieter and restricted innocence of St. Agnes),—and all the traditions of sorrow in the trial or failure of noble womanhood are connected with her name; Ginevra, in Italian, passing into Shakespeare's Imogen; and Guinevere, the torrent wave of the British mountain streams, of whose pollution your modern sentimental minstrels chant and moan to you, lugubriously useless;—but none tell you, that I hear, of the victory and might of this white wave of France.
4. A shepherd maid she was—a tiny thing, barefooted, bare-headed—such as you may see running wild and innocent, less cared for now than their sheep, over many a hillside of France and Italy. Tiny enough;—seven years old, all told, when first one hears of her: "Seven times one are seven, (I am old, you may trust me, linnet, linnet)," and all around her—fierce as the Furies, and wild as the winds of heaven—the thunder of the Gothic armies, reverberate over the ruins of the world.
5. Two leagues from Paris, (Roman Paris, soon to pass away with Rome herself,) the little thing keeps her flock, not even her own, nor her father's flock, like David; she is the hired servant of a richer farmer of Nanterre. Who can tell me anything about Nanterre?—which of our pilgrims of this omni-speculant, omni-nescient age has thought of visiting what shrine may be there? I don't know even on what side of Paris it lies, nor under which heap of railway cinders and iron one is to conceive the sheep-walks and blossomed fields of fairy St. Phyllis. There were such left, even in my time, between Paris and St. Denis, (see the prettiest chapter in all the "Mysteries of Paris," where Fleur de Marie runs wild in them for the first time), but now, I suppose, St. Phyllis's native earth is all thrown up into bastion and glacis, (profitable and blessed of all saints, and her, as these have since proved themselves!) or else are covered with manufactories and cabarets. Seven years old she was, then, when on his way to England from Auxerre, St. Germain passed a night in her village, and among the children who brought him on his way in the morning in more kindly manner than Elisha's convoy, noticed this one—wider-eyed in reverence than the rest; drew her to him, questioned her, and was sweetly answered: That she would fain be Christ's handmaid. And he hung round her neck a small copper coin, marked with the cross. Thencefoward Genevieve held herself as "separated from the world."
[Footnote 10: Miss Ingelow.]
[Footnote 11: On inquiry, I find in the flat between Paris and Sevres.]
6. It did not turn out so, however. Far the contrary. You must think of her, instead, as the first of Parisiennes. Queen of Vanity Fair, that was to be, sedately poor St. Phyllis, with her copper-crossed farthing about her neck! More than Nitocris was to Egypt, more than Semiramis to Nineveh, more than Zenobia to the city of palm trees—this seven-years-old shepherd maiden became to Paris and her France. You have not heard of her in that kind?—No: how should you?—for she did not lead armies, but stayed them, and all her power was in peace.
7. There are, however, some seven or eight and twenty lives of her, I believe; into the literature of which I cannot enter, nor need, all having been ineffective in producing any clear picture of her to the modern French or English mind; and leaving one's own poor sagacities and fancy to gather and shape the sanctity of her into an intelligible, I do not say a credible, form; for there is no question here about belief,—the creature is as real as Joan of Arc, and far more powerful;—she is separated, just as St. Martin is, by his patience, from too provocative prelates—by her quietness of force, from the pitiable crowd of feminine martyr saints.
There are thousands of religious girls who have never got themselves into any calendars, but have wasted and wearied away their lives—heaven knows why, for we cannot; but here is one, at any rate, who neither scolds herself to martyrdom, nor frets herself into consumption, but becomes a tower of the Flock, and builder of folds for them all her days.
8. The first thing, then, you have to note of her, is that she is a pure native Gaul. She does not come as a missionary out of Hungary, or Illyria, or Egypt, or ineffable space; but grows at Nanterre, like a marguerite in the dew, the first "Reine Blanche" of Gaul.
I have not used this ugly word 'Gaul' before, and we must be quite sure what it means, at once, though it will cost us a long parenthesis.
9. During all the years of the rising power of Rome, her people called everybody a Gaul who lived north of the sources of Tiber. If you are not content with that general statement, you may read the article "Gallia" in Smith's dictionary, which consists of seventy-one columns of close print, containing each as much as three of my pages; and tells you at the end of it, that "though long, it is not complete." You may however, gather from it, after an attentive perusal, as much as I have above told you.
But, as early as the second century after Christ, and much more distinctly in the time with which we are ourselves concerned—the fifth—the wild nations opposed to Rome, and partially subdued, or held at bay by her, had resolved themselves into two distinct masses, belonging to two distinct latitudes. One, fixed in habitation of the pleasant temperate zone of Europe—England with her western mountains, the healthy limestone plateaux and granite mounts of France, the German labyrinths of woody hill and winding thal, from the Tyrol to the Hartz, and all the vast enclosed basin and branching valleys of the Carpathians. Think of these four districts, briefly and clearly, as 'Britain,' 'Gaul,' 'Germany,' and 'Dacia.'
10. North of these rudely but patiently resident races, possessing fields and orchards, quiet herds, homes of a sort, moralities and memories not ignoble, dwelt, or rather drifted, and shook, a shattered chain of gloomier tribes, piratical mainly, and predatory, nomad essentially; homeless, of necessity, finding no stay nor comfort in earth, or bitter sky: desperately wandering along the waste sands and drenched morasses of the flat country stretching from the mouths of the Rhine to those of the Vistula, and beyond Vistula nobody knows where, nor needs to know. Waste sands and rootless bogs their portion, ice-fastened and cloud-shadowed, for many a day of the rigorous year: shallow pools and oozings and windings of retarded streams, black decay of neglected woods, scarcely habitable, never loveable; to this day the inner main-lands little changed for good—and their inhabitants now fallen even on sadder times.
[Footnote 12: See generally any description that Carlyle has had occasion to give of Prussian or Polish ground, or edge of Baltic shore.]
11. For in the fifth century they had herds of cattle to drive and kill, unpreserved hunting-grounds full of game and wild deer, tameable reindeer also then, even so far in the south; spirited hogs, good for practice of fight as in Meleager's time, and afterwards for bacon; furry creatures innumerable, all good for meat or skin. Fish of the infinite sea breaking their bark-fibre nets; fowl innumerable, migrant in the skies, for their flint-headed arrows; bred horses for their own riding; ships of no mean size, and of all sorts, flat-bottomed for the oozy puddles, keeled and decked for strong Elbe stream and furious Baltic on the one side, for mountain-cleaving Danube and the black lake of Colchos on the south.
[Footnote 13: Gigantic—and not yet fossilized! See Gibbon's note on the death of Theodebert: "The King pointed his spear—the Bull overturned a tree on his head,—he died the same day."—vii. 255. The Horn of Uri and her shield, with the chiefly towering crests of the German helm, attest the terror of these Aurochs herds.]
12. And they were, to all outward aspect, and in all felt force, the living powers of the world, in that long hour of its transfiguration. All else known once for awful, had become formalism, folly, or shame:—the Roman armies, a mere sworded mechanism, fast falling confused, every sword against its fellow;—the Roman civil multitude, mixed of slaves, slave-masters, and harlots; the East, cut off from Europe by the intervening weakness of the Greek. These starving troops of the Black forests and White seas, themselves half wolf, half drift-wood, (as we once called ourselves Lion-hearts, and Oak-hearts, so they), merciless as the herded hound, enduring as the wild birch-tree and pine. You will hear of few beside them for five centuries yet to come: Visigoths, west of Vistula;—Ostrogoths, east of Vistula; radiant round little Holy Island (Heligoland), our own Saxons, and Hamlet the Dane, and his foe the sledded Polack on the ice,—all these south of Baltic; and pouring across Baltic, constantly, her mountain-ministered strength, Scandinavia, until at last she for a time rules all, and the Norman name is of disputeless dominion, from the North Cape to Jerusalem.
13. This is the apparent, this the only recognised world history, as I have said, for five centuries to come. And yet the real history is underneath all this. The wandering armies are, in the heart of them, only living hail, and thunder, and fire along the ground. But the Suffering Life, the rooted heart of native humanity, growing up in eternal gentleness, howsoever wasted, forgotten, or spoiled,—itself neither wasting, nor wandering, nor slaying, but unconquerable by grief or death, became the seed ground of all love, that was to be born in due time; giving, then, to mortality, what hope, joy, or genius it could receive; and—if there be immortality—rendering out of the grave to the Church her fostering Saints, and to Heaven her helpful Angels.
14. Of this low-nestling, speechless, harmless, infinitely submissive, infinitely serviceable order of being, no Historian ever takes the smallest notice, except when it is robbed or slain. I can give you no picture of it, bring to your ears no murmur of it, nor cry. I can only show you the absolute 'must have been' of its unrewarded past, and the way in which all we have thought of, or been told, is founded on the deeper facts in its history, unthought of, and untold.
15. The main mass of this innocent and invincible peasant life is, as I have above told you, grouped in the fruitful and temperate districts of (relatively) mountainous Europe,—reaching, west to east, from the Cornish Land's End to the mouth of the Danube. Already, in the times we are now dealing with, it was full of native passion—generosity—and intelligence capable of all things. Dacia gave to Rome the four last of her great Emperors,—Britain to Christianity the first deeds, and the final legends, of her chivalry,—Germany, to all manhood, the truth and the fire of the Frank,—Gaul, to all womanhood, the patience and strength of St. Genevieve.
[Footnote 14: Claudius, Aurelian, Probus, Constantius; and after the division of the empire, to the East, Justinian. "The emperor Justinian was born of an obscure race of Barbarians, the inhabitants of a wild and desolate country, to which the names of Dardania, of Dacia, and of Bulgaria have been successively applied. The names of these Dardanian peasants are Gothic, and almost English. Justinian is a translation of Uprauder (upright); his father, Sabatius,—in Graeco-barbarous language, Stipes—was styled in his village 'Istock' (Stock)."—Gibbon, beginning of chap. xl. and note.]
16. The truth, and the fire, of the Frank,—I must repeat with insistence,—for my younger readers have probably been in the habit of thinking that the French were more polite than true. They will find, if they examine into the matter, that only Truth can be polished: and that all we recognize of beautiful, subtle, or constructive, in the manners, the language, or the architecture of the French, comes of a pure veracity in their nature, which you will soon feel in the living creatures themselves if you love them: if you understand even their worst rightly, their very Revolution was a revolt against lies; and against the betrayal of Love. No people had ever been so loyal in vain.
17. That they were originally Germans, they themselves I suppose would now gladly forget; but how they shook the dust of Germany off their feet—and gave themselves a new name—is the first of the phenomena which we have now attentively to observe respecting them.
"The most rational critics," says Mr. Gibbon in his tenth chapter, "suppose that about the year 240" (suppose then, we, for our greater comfort, say about the year 250, half-way to end of fifth century, where we are,—ten years less or more, in cases of 'supposing about,' do not much matter, but some floating buoy of a date will be handy here.)
'About' A.D. 250, then, "a new confederacy was formed, under the name of Franks, by the old inhabitants of the lower Rhine and the Weser."
18. My own impression, concerning the old inhabitants of the lower Rhine and the Weser, would have been that they consisted mostly of fish, with superficial frogs and ducks; but Mr. Gibbon's note on the passage informs us that the new confederation composed itself of human creatures, in these items following.
1. The Chauci, who lived we are not told where.
2. The Sicambri " in the Principality of Waldeck.
3. The Attuarii " in the Duchy of Berg.
4. The Bructeri " on the banks of the Lippe.
5. The Chamavii " in the country of the Bructeri.
6. The Catti " in Hessia.
All this I believe you will be rather easier in your minds if you forget than if you remember; but if it please you to read, or re-read, (or best of all, get read to you by some real Miss Isabella Wardour,) the story of Martin Waldeck in the 'Antiquary,' you will gain from it a sufficient notion of the central character of "the Principality of Waldeck" connected securely with that important German word; 'woody'—or 'woodish,' I suppose?—descriptive of rock and half-grown forest; together with some wholesome reverence for Scott's instinctively deep foundations of nomenclature.
19. But for our present purpose we must also take seriously to our maps again, and get things within linear limits of space.
All the maps of Germany which I have myself the privilege of possessing, diffuse themselves, just north of Frankfort, into the likeness of a painted window broken small by Puritan malice, and put together again by ingenious churchwardens with every bit of it wrong side upwards;—this curious vitrerie purporting to represent the sixty, seventy, eighty, or ninety dukedoms, marquisates, counties, baronies, electorates, and the like, into which hereditary Alemannia cracked itself in that latitude. But under the mottling colours, and through the jotted and jumbled alphabets of distracted dignities—besides a chain-mail of black railroads over all, the chains of it not in links, but bristling with legs, like centipedes,—a hard forenoon's work with good magnifying-glass enables one approximately to make out the course of the Weser, and the names of certain towns near its sources, deservedly memorable.
20. In case you have not a forenoon to spare, nor eyesight to waste, this much of merely necessary abstract must serve you,—that from the Drachenfels and its six brother felsen, eastward, trending to the north, there runs and spreads a straggling company of gnarled and mysterious craglets, jutting and scowling above glens fringed by coppice, and fretful or musical with stream; the crags, in pious ages, mostly castled, for distantly or fancifully Christian purposes;—the glens, resonant of woodmen, or burrowed at the sides by miners, and invisibly tenanted farther, underground, by gnomes, and above by forest and other demons. The entire district, clasping crag to crag, and guiding dell to dell, some hundred and fifty miles (with intervals) between the Dragon mountain above Rhine, and the Rosin mountain, 'Hartz' shadowy still to the south of the riding grounds of Black Brunswickers of indisputable bodily presence;—shadowy anciently with 'Hercynian' (hedge, or fence) forest, corrupted or coinciding into Hartz, or Rosin forest, haunted by obscurely apparent foresters of at least resinous, not to say sulphurous, extraction.
21. A hundred and fifty miles east to west, say half as much north to south—about a thousand square miles in whole—of metalliferous, coniferous, and Ghostiferous mountain, fluent, and diffluent for us, both in mediaeval and recent times, with the most Essential oil of Turpentine, and Myrrh or Frankincense of temper and imagination, which may be typified by it, producible in Germany; especially if we think how the more delicate uses of Rosin, as indispensable to the Fiddle-bow, have developed themselves, from the days of St. Elizabeth of Marburg to those of St. Mephistopheles of Weimar.
22. As far as I know, this cluster of wayward cliff and dingle has no common name as a group of hills; and it is quite impossible to make out the diverse branching of it in any maps I can lay hand on: but we may remember easily, and usefully, that it is all north of the Maine,—that it rests on the Drachenfels at one end, and tosses itself away to the morning light with a concave swoop, up to the Hartz, (Brocken summit, 3700 feet above sea, nothing higher): with one notable interval for Weser stream, of which presently.
23. We will call this, in future, the chain, or company, of the Enchanted mountains; and then we shall all the more easily join on the Giant mountains, Riesen-Gebirge, when we want them; but these are altogether higher, sterner, and not yet to be invaded; the nearer ones, through which our road lies, we might perhaps more aptly call the Goblin mountains; but that would be scarcely reverent to St. Elizabeth, nor to the numberless pretty chatelaines of towers, and princesses of park and glen, who have made German domestic manners sweet and exemplary, and have led their lightly rippling and translucent lives down the glens of ages, until enchantment becomes, perhaps, too canonical in the Almanach de Gotha.
We will call them therefore the Enchanted Mountains, not the Goblin; perceiving gratefully also that the Rock spirits of them have really much more of the temper of fairy physicians than of gnomes: each—as it were with sensitive hazel wand instead of smiting rod—beckoning, out of sparry caves, effervescent Brunnen, beneficently salt and warm.
24. At the very heart of this Enchanted chain, then—(and the beneficentest, if one use it and guide it rightly, of all the Brunnen there,) sprang the fountain of the earliest Frank race; "in the principality of Waldeck,"—you can trace their current to no farther source; there it rises out of the earth.
'Frankenberg' (Burg), on right bank of the Eder, nineteen miles north of Marburg, you may find marked clearly in the map No. 18 of Black's General Atlas, wherein the cluster of surrounding bewitched mountains, and the valley of Eder-stream otherwise (as the village higher up the dell still calls itself) "Engel-Bach," "Angel Brook," joining that of the Fulda, just above Cassel, are also delineated in a way intelligible to attentive mortal eyes. I should be plagued with the names in trying a woodcut; but a few careful pen-strokes, or wriggles, of your own off-hand touching, would give you the concurrence of the actual sources of Weser in a comfortably extricated form, with the memorable towns on them, or just south of them, on the other slope of the watershed, towards Maine. Frankenberg and Waldeck on Eder, Fulda and Cassel on Fulda, Eisenach on Werra, who accentuates himself into Weser after taking Fulda for bride, as Tees the Greta, beyond Eisenach, under the Wartzburg, (of which you have heard as a castle employed on Christian mission and Bible Society purposes), town-streets below hard paved with basalt—name of it, Iron-ach, significant of Thuringian armouries in the old time,—it is active with mills for many things yet.
25. The rocks all the way from Rhine, thus far, are jets and spurts of basalt through irony sandstone, with a strip of coal or two northward, by the grace of God not worth digging for; at Frankenberg even a gold mine; also, by Heaven's mercy, poor of its ore; but wood and iron always to be had for the due trouble; and, of softer wealth above ground,—game, corn, fruit, flax, wine, wool, and hemp! Monastic care over all, in Fulda's and Walter's houses—which I find marked by a cross as built by some pious Walter, Knight of Meiningen on the Boden wasser, Bottom water, as of water having found its way well down at last: so "Boden-See," of Rhine well got down out of Via Mala.
26. And thus, having got your springs of Weser clear from the rock; and, as it were, gathered up the reins of your river, you can draw for yourself, easily enough, the course of its farther stream, flowing virtually straight north, to the North Sea. And mark it strongly on your sketched map of Europe, next to the border Vistula, leaving out Elbe yet for a time. For now, you may take the whole space between Weser and Vistula (north of the mountains), as wild barbarian (Saxon or Goth); but, piercing the source of the Franks at Waldeck, you will find them gradually, but swiftly, filling all the space between Weser and the mouths of Rhine, passing from mountain foam into calmer diffusion over the Netherland, where their straying forest and pastoral life has at last to embank itself into muddy agriculture, and in bleak-flying sea mist, forget the sunshine on its basalt crags.
27. Whereupon, we must also pause, to embank ourselves somewhat; and before other things, try what we can understand in this name of Frank, concerning which Gibbon tells us, in his sweetest tones of satisfied moral serenity—"The love of liberty was the ruling passion of these Germans. They deserved, they assumed, they maintained, the honourable epithet of Franks, or Freemen." He does not, however, tell us in what language of the time—Chaucian, Sicambrian, Chamavian, or Cattian,—'Frank' ever meant Free: nor can I find out myself what tongue of any time it first belongs to; but I doubt not that Miss Yonge ('History of Christian Names,' Articles on Frey and Frank), gives the true root, in what she calls the High German "Frang," Free Lord. Not by any means a Free Commoner, or anything of the sort! but a person whose nature and name implied the existence around him, and beneath, of a considerable number of other persons who were by no means 'Frang,' nor Frangs. His title is one of the proudest then maintainable;—ratified at last by the dignity of age added to that of valour, into the Seigneur, or Monseigneur, not even yet in the last cockney form of it, 'Mossoo,' wholly understood as a republican term!