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  • 1904
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that this line was written by a Roman Catholic is the more likely because no such religious thought recurs in all the rest of Shakespeare’s works, dramatic or lyric, unless it is implied in Gaunt’s allusion to “the world’s ransom, blessed Mary’s Son.” Thus, while three hundred years caused in England the disappearance of the great divinity on whom the twelfth and thirteenth centuries had lavished all their hopes, and during these three centuries every earthly throne had been repeatedly shaken or shattered, the Church had been broken in halves, faith had been lost, and philosophies overthrown, the Virgin still remained and remains the most intensely and the most widely and the most personally felt, of all characters, divine or human or imaginary, that ever existed among men. Nothing has even remotely taken her place. The only possible exception is the Buddha, Sakya Muni; but to the Western mind, a figure like the Buddha stood much farther away than the Virgin. That of the Christ even to Saint Bernard stood not so near as that of his mother. Abelard expressed the fact in its logical necessity even more strongly than Saint Bernard did:–

Te requirunt vota fidelium,
Ad te corda suspirant omnium,
Tu spes nostra post Deum unica,
Advocata nobis es posita.
Ad judicis matrem confugiunt,
Qui judicis iram effugiunt,
Quae praecari pro eis cogitur,
Quae pro reis mater efficitur.

“After the Trinity, you are our ONLY hope”; spes nostra unica; “you are placed there as our advocate; all of us who fear the wrath of the Judge, fly to the Judge’s mother, who is logically compelled to sue for us, and stands in the place of a mother to the guilty.” Abelard’s logic was always ruthless, and the “cogitur” is a stronger word than one would like to use now, with a priest in hearing. We need not insist on it; but what one must insist on, is the good faith of the whole people,–kings, queens, princes of all sorts, philosophers, poets, soldiers, artists, as well as of the commoners like ourselves, and the poor,–for the good faith of the priests is not important to the understanding, since any class which is sufficiently interested in believing will always believe. In order to feel Gothic architecture in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, one must feel first and last, around and above and beneath it, the good faith of the public, excepting only Jews and atheists, permeating every portion of it with the conviction of an immediate alternative between heaven and hell, with Mary as the ONLY court in equity capable of overruling strict law.

The Virgin was a real person, whose tastes, wishes, instincts, passions, were intimately known. Enough of the Virgin’s literature survives to show her character, and the course of her daily life. We know more about her habits and thoughts than about those of earthly queens. The “Miracles de la Vierge” make a large part, and not the poorest part, of the enormous literature of these two centuries, although the works of Albertus Magnus fill twenty-one folio volumes and those of Thomas Aquinas fill more, while the “Chansons de Geste” and the “Romans,” published or unpublished, are a special branch of literature with libraries to themselves. The collection of the Virgin’s miracles put in verse by Gaultier de Coincy, monk, prior, and poet, between 1214 and 1233–the precise moment of the Chartres sculpture and glass–contains thirty thousand lines. Another great collection, narrating especially the miracles of the Virgin of Chartres, was made by a priest of Chartres Cathedral about 1240. Separate series, or single tales, have appeared and are appearing constantly, but no general collection has ever been made, although the whole poetic literature of the Virgin could be printed in the space of two or three volumes of scholastic philosophy, and if the Church had cared half as truly for the Virgin as it has for Thomas Aquinas, every miracle might have been collected and published a score of times. The miracles themselves, indeed, are not very numerous. In Gaultier de Coincy’s collection they number only about fifty. The Chartres collection relates chiefly to the horrible outbreak of what was called leprosy–the “mal ardent,”–which ravaged the north of France during the crusades, and added intensity to the feelings which brought all society to the Virgin’s feet. Recent scholars are cataloguing and classifying the miracles, as far as they survive, and have reduced the number within very moderate limits. As poetry, Gaultier de Coincy’s are the best.

Of Gaultier de Coincy and his poetry, Gaston Paris has something to say which is worth quoting:–

It is the most curious, and often the most singular monument of the infantile piety of the Middle Ages. Devotion to Mary is presented in it as a kind of infallible guarantee not only against every sort of evil, but also against the most legitimate consequences of sin and even of crime. In these stories which have revolted the most rational piety, as well as the philosophy of modern times, one must still admit a gentle and penetrating charm; a naivete; a tenderness and a simplicity of heart, which touch, while they raise a smile. There, for instance, one sees a sick monk cured by the milk that Our Lady herself comes to invite him to draw from her “douce mamelle”; a robber who is in the habit of recommending himself to the Virgin whenever he is going to “embler,” is held up by her white hands for three days on the gibbet where he is hung, until the miracle becomes evident, and procures his pardon; an ignorant monk who knows only his Ave Maria, and is despised on that account, when dead reveals his sanctity by five roses which come out of his mouth in honour of the five letters of the name Maria; a nun, who has quitted her convent to lead a life of sin, returns after long years, and finds that the Holy Virgin, to whom, in spite of all, she has never ceased to offer every day her prayer, has, during all this time, filled her place as sacristine, so that no one has perceived her absence.

Gaston Paris inclined to apologize to his “bons bourgeois de Paris” for reintroducing to them a character so doubtful as the Virgin Mary, but, for our studies, the professor’s elementary morality is eloquent. Clearly, M. Paris, the highest academic authority in the world, thought that the Virgin could hardly, in his time, say the year 1900, be received into good society in the Latin Quarter. Our own English ancestors, known as Puritans, held the same opinion, and excluded her from their society some four hundred years earlier, for the same reasons which affected M. Gaston Paris. These reasons were just, and showed the respectability of the citizens who held them. In no well-regulated community, under a proper system of police, could the Virgin feel at home, and the same thing may be said of most other saints as well as sinners. Her conduct was at times undignified, as M. Paris complained, She condescended to do domestic service, in order to help her friends, and she would use her needle, if she were in the mood, for the same object. The “Golden Legend” relates that:–

A certain priest, who celebrated every day a mass in honour of the Holy Virgin, was brought up before Saint Thomas of Canterbury who suspended him from his charge, judging him to be short-witted and irresponsible. Now Saint Thomas had occasion to mend his hair-cloth shirt, and while waiting for an opportunity to do so, had hidden it under his bed; so the Virgin appeared to the priest and said to him: “Go find the archbishop and tell him that she, for love of whom you celebrated masses, has herself mended his shirt for him which is under his bed; and tell him that she sends you to him that he may take off the interdict he has imposed on you.” And Saint Thomas found that his shirt had in fact been mended. He relieved the priest, begging him to keep the secret of his wearing a hair-shirt.

Mary did some exceedingly unconventional things, and among them the darning Thomas A’Becket’s hair-shirt, and the supporting a robber on the gibbet, were not the most singular, yet they seem not to have shocked Queen Blanche or Saint Francis or Saint Thomas Aquinas so much as they shocked M. Gaston Paris and M. Prudhomme. You have still to visit the cathedral at Le Mans for the sake of its twelfth- century glass, and there, in the lower panel of the beautiful, and very early, window of Saint Protais, you will see the full-length figure of a man, lying in bed, under a handsome blanket, watching, with staring eyes, the Virgin, in a green tunic, wearing her royal crown, who is striking him on the head with a heavy hammer and with both hands. The miracle belongs to local history, and is amusing only to show how little the Virgin cared for criticism of her manners or acts. She was above criticism. She made manners. Her acts were laws. No one thought of criticizing, in the style of a normal school, the will of such a queen; but one might treat her with a degree of familiarity, under great provocation, which would startle easier critics than the French, Here is an instance:–

A widow had an only child whom she tenderly loved. On hearing that this son had been taken by the enemy, chained, and put in prison, she burst into tears, and addressing herself to the Virgin, to whom she was especially devoted, she asked her with obstinacy for the release of her son; but when she saw at last that her prayers remained unanswered, she went to the church where there was a sculptured image of Mary, and there, before the image, she said: “Holy Virgin, I have begged you to deliver my son, and you have not been willing to help an unhappy mother! I’ve implored your patronage for my son, and you have refused it! Very good! just as my son has been taken away from me, so I am going to take away yours, and keep him as a hostage!” Saying this, she approached, took the statue child on the Virgin’s breast, carried it home, wrapped it in spotless linen, and locked it up in a box, happy to have such a hostage for her son’s return. Now, the following night, the Virgin appeared to the young man, opened his prison doors, and said: “Tell your mother, my child, to return me my Son now that I have returned hers!” The young man came home to his mother and told her of his miraculous deliverance; and she, overjoyed, hastened to go with the little Jesus to the Virgin, saying to her: “I thank you, heavenly lady, for restoring me my child, and in return I restore yours!”

For the exactness of this story in all its details, Bishop James of Voragio could not have vouched, nor did it greatly matter. What he could vouch for was the relation of intimacy and confidence between his people and the Queen of Heaven. The fact, conspicuous above all other historical certainties about religion, that the Virgin was by essence illogical, unreasonable and feminine, is the only fact of any ultimate value worth studying, and starts a number of questions that history has shown itself clearly afraid to touch. Protestant and Catholic differ little in that respect. No one has ventured to explain why the Virgin wielded exclusive power over poor and rich, sinners and saints, alike. Why were all the Protestant churches cold failures without her help? Why could not the Holy Ghost–the spirit of Love and Grace–equally answer their prayers? Why was the Son powerless? Why was Chartres Cathedral in the thirteenth century– like Lourdes to-day–the expression of what is in substance a separate religion? Why did the gentle and gracious Virgin Mother so exasperate the Pilgrim Father? Why was the Woman struck out of the Church and ignored in the State? These questions are not antiquarian or trifling in historical value; they tug at the very heart-strings of all that makes whatever order is in the cosmos. If a Unity exists, in which and toward which all energies centre, it must explain and include Duality, Diversity, Infinity–Sex!

Although certain to be contradicted by every pious churchman, a heretic must insist on thinking that the Mater Dolorosa was the logical Virgin of the Church, and that the Trinity would never have raised her from the foot of the Cross, had not the Virgin of Majesty been imposed, by necessity and public unanimity, on a creed which was meant to be complete without her. The true feeling of the Church was best expressed by the Virgin herself in one of her attested miracles: “A clerk, trusting more in the Mother than in the Son, never stopped repeating the angelic salutation for his only prayer. Once as he said again the ‘Ave Maria,’ the Lord appeared to him, and said to him: ‘My Mother thanks you much for all the Salutations that you make her; but still you should not forget to salute me also: tamen et me salutare memento.'” The Trinity feared absorption in her, but was compelled to accept, and even to invite her aid, because the Trinity was a court of strict law, and, as in the old customary law, no process of equity could be introduced except by direct appeal to a higher power. She was imposed unanimously by all classes, because what man wanted most in the Middle Ages was not merely law or equity, but also and particularly favour. Strict justice, either on earth or in heaven, was the last thing that society cared to face. All men were sinners, and had, at least, the merit of feeling that, if they got their deserts, not one would escape worse than whipping. The instinct of individuality went down through all classes, from the count at the top, to the jugleors and menestreus at the bottom. The individual rebelled against restraint; society wanted to do what it pleased; all disliked the laws which Church and State were trying to fasten on them. They longed for a power above law,–or above the contorted mass of ignorance and absurdity bearing the name of law; but the power which they longed for was not human, for humanity they knew to be corrupt and incompetent from the day of Adam’s creation to the day of the Last Judgment. They were all criminals; if not, they would have had no use for the Church and very little for the State; but they had at least the merit of their faults; they knew what they were, and, like children, they yearned for protection, pardon, and love. This was what the Trinity, though omnipotent, could not give. Whatever the heretic or mystic might try to persuade himself, God could not be Love. God was Justice, Order, Unity, Perfection; He could not be human and imperfect, nor could the Son or the Holy Ghost be other than the Father. The Mother alone was human, imperfect, and could love; she alone was Favour, Duality, Diversity. Under any conceivable form of religion, this duality must find embodiment somewhere, and the Middle Ages logically insisted that, as it could not be in the Trinity, either separately or together, it must be in the Mother. If the Trinity was in its essence Unity, the Mother alone could represent whatever was not Unity; whatever was irregular, exceptional, outlawed; and this was the whole human race. The saints alone were safe, after they were sainted. Every one else was criminal, and men differed so little in degree of sin that, in Mary’s eyes, all were subjects for her pity and help.

This general rule of favour, apart from law, or the reverse of law, was the mark of Mary’s activity in human affairs. Take, for an example, an entire class of her miracles, applying to the discipline of the Church! A bishop ejected an ignorant and corrupt priest from his living, as all bishops constantly had to do. The priest had taken the precaution to make himself Mary’s MAN; he had devoted himself to her service and her worship. Mary instantly interfered,– just as Queen Eleanor or Queen Blanche would have done,–most unreasonably, and never was a poor bishop more roughly scolded by an orthodox queen! “Moult airieement,” very airily or angrily, she said to him (Bartsch, 1887, p. 363):–

Ce saches tu certainement
Se tu li matinet bien main
Ne rapeles mon chapelain
A son servise et a s’enor,
L’ame de toi a desenor
Ains trente jors departira
Et es dolors d’infer ira.

Now know you this for sure and true,
Unless to-morrow this you do,
–And do it very early too,–
Restore my chaplain to his due,
A much worse fate remains for you! Within a month your soul shall go
To suffer in the flames below.

The story-teller–himself a priest and prior–caught the lofty trick of manner which belonged to the great ladies of the court, and was inherited by them, even in England, down to the time of Queen Elizabeth, who treated her bishops also like domestic servants;– “matinet bien main!” To the public, as to us, the justice of the rebuke was nothing to the point; but that a friend should exist on earth or in heaven, who dared to browbeat a bishop, caused the keenest personal delight. The legends are clearer on this point than on any other. The people loved Mary because she trampled on conventions; not merely because she could do it, but because she liked to do what shocked every well-regulated authority. Her pity had no limit.

One of the Chartres miracles expresses the same motive in language almost plainer still. A good-for-nothing clerk, vicious, proud, vain, rude, and altogether worthless, but devoted to the Virgin, died, and with general approval his body was thrown into a ditch (Bartsch, 1887, p. 369):–

Mais cele ou sort tote pities
Tote douceurs tote amisties
Et qui les siens onques n’oublie
SON PECHEOR n’oblia mie.

“HER sinner!” Mary would not have been a true queen unless she had protected her own. The whole morality of the Middle Ages stood in the obligation of every master to protect his dependent. The herdsmen of Count Garin of Beaucaire were the superiors of their damoiseau Aucassins, while they felt sure of the Count. Mary was the highest of all the feudal ladies, and was the example for all in loyalty to her own, when she had to humiliate her own Bishop of Chartres for the sake of a worthless brute. “Do you suppose it doesn’t annoy me,” she said, “to see my friend buried in a common ditch? Take him out at once! I command! tell the clergy it is my order, and that I will never forgive them unless to-morrow morning without delay, they bury my friend in the best place in the cemetery!”:–

Cuidies vos donc qu’il ne m’enuit
Quant vos l’aves si adosse
Que mis l’aves en un fosse?
Metes Ten fors je le comant!
Di le clergie que je li mant!
Ne me puet mi repaier
Se le matin sans delayer
A grant heneur n’est mis amis
Ou plus beau leu de l’aitre mis.

Naturally, her order was instantly obeyed. In the feudal regime, disobedience to an order was treason–or even hesitation to obey– when the order was serious; very much as in a modern army, disobedience is not regarded as conceivable. Mary’s wish was absolute law, on earth as in heaven. For her, other laws were not made. Intensely human, but always Queen, she upset, at her pleasure, the decisions of every court and the orders of every authority, human or divine; interfered directly in the ordeal; altered the processes of nature; abolished space; annihilated time. Like other queens, she had many of the failings and prejudices of her humanity. In spite of her own origin, she disliked Jews, and rarely neglected a chance to maltreat them. She was not in the least a prude. To her, sin was simply humanity, and she seemed often on the point of defending her arbitrary acts of mercy, by frankly telling the Trinity that if the Creator meant to punish man, He should not have made him. The people, who always in their hearts protested against bearing the responsibility for the Creator’s arbitrary creations, delighted to see her upset the law, and reverse the rulings of the Trinity. They idolized her for being strong, physically and in will, so that she feared nothing, and was as helpful to the knight in the melee of battle as to the young mother in child-bed. The only character in which they seemed slow to recognize Mary was that of bourgeoise. The bourgeoisie courted her favour at great expense, but she seemed to be at home on the farm, rather than in the shop. She had very rudimentary knowledge, indeed, of the principles of political economy as we understand them, and her views on the subject of money-lending or banking were so feminine as to rouse in that powerful class a vindictive enmity which helped to overthrow her throne. On the other hand, she showed a marked weakness for chivalry, and one of her prettiest and most twelfth-century miracles is that of the knight who heard mass while Mary took his place in the lists. It is much too charming to lose (Bartsch, 1895, p. 311):- –

Un chevalier courtois et sages,
Hardis et de grant vasselages,
Nus mieudres en chevalerie,
Moult amoit la vierge Marie.
Pour son barnage demener
Et son franc cors d’armes pener,
Aloit a son tournoiement
Garnis de son contentement.
Au dieu plaisir ainsi avint
Que quant le jour du tournoi vint
Il se hastoit de chevauchier,
Bien vousist estre en champ premier. D’une eglise qui pres estoit
Oi les sains que l’on sonnoit
Pour la sainte messe chanter.
Le chevalier sans arrester
S’en est ale droit a l’eglise
Pour escouter le dieu servise.
L’en chantoit tantost hautement
Une messe devotement
De la sainte Vierge Marie;
Puis a on autre comencie.
Le chevalier vien l’escouta,
De bon cuer la dame pria,
Et quant la messe fut finee
La tierce fu recomenciee
Tantost en ce meisme lieu.
“Sire, pour la sainte char dieu!”
Ce li a dit son escuier,
“L’heure passe de tournoier,
Et vous que demourez ici?
Venez vous en, je vous en pri!
Volez vous devenir hermite
Ou papelart ou ypocrite?
Alons en a nostre mestier!”

A knight both courteous and wise
And brave and bold in enterprise.
No better knight was ever seen,
Greatly loved the Virgin Queen.
Once, to contest the tourney’s prize And keep his strength in exercise,
He rode out to the listed field
Armed at all points with lance and shield; But it pleased God that when the day
Of tourney came, and on his way
He pressed his charger’s speed apace To reach, before his friends, the place, He saw a church hard by the road
And heard the church-bells sounding loud To celebrate the holy mass.
Without a thought the church to pass The knight drew rein, and entered there To seek the aid of God in prayer.

High and dear they chanted then
A solemn mass to Mary Queen;
Then afresh began again.
Lost in his prayers the good knight stayed; With all his heart to Mary prayed;
And, when the second one was done, Straightway the third mass was begun,
Right there upon the self-same place. “Sire, for mercy of God’s grace!”
Whispered his squire in his ear;
“The hour of tournament is near;
Why do you want to linger here?
Is it a hermit to become,
Or hypocrite, or priest of Rome?
Come on, at once! despatch your prayer! Let us be off to our affair!”

The accent of truth still lingers in this remonstrance of the squire, who must, from all time, have lost his temper on finding his chevalier addicted to “papelardie” when he should have been fighting; but the priest had the advantage of telling the story and pointing the moral. This advantage the priest neglected rarely, but in this case he used it with such refinement and so much literary skill that even the squire might have been patient. With the invariable gentle courtesy of the true knight, the chevalier replied only by soft words:–

“Amis!” ce dist li chevalier,
“Cil tournoie moult noblement
Qui le servise dieu entent.”

In one of Milton’s sonnets is a famous line which is commonly classed among the noblest verses of the English language:–

“They also serve, who only stand and wait.”

Fine as it is, with the simplicity of the grand style, like the “Chanson de Roland” the verse of Milton does not quite destroy the charm of thirteenth-century diction:–

“Friend!” said to him the chevalier, “He tourneys very nobly too,
Who only hears God’s service through!”

No doubt the verses lack the singular power of the eleventh century; it is not worth while to pretend that any verse written in the thirteenth century wholly holds its own against “Roland”:–

“Sire cumpain! faites le vus de gred? Ja est co Rollanz ki tant vos soelt amer!”

The courtesy of Roland has the serious solidity of the Romanesque arch, and that of Lancelot and Aucassins has the grace of a legendary window; but one may love it, all the same; and one may even love the knight,–papelard though he were,–as he turned back to the altar and remained in prayer until the last mass was ended.

Then they mounted and rode on toward the field, and of course you foresee what had happened. In itself the story is bald enough, but it is told with such skill that one never tires of it. As the chevalier and the squire approached the lists, they met the other knights returning, for the jousts were over; but, to the astonishment of the chevalier, he was greeted by all who passed him with shouts of applause for his marvellous triumph in the lists, where he had taken all the prizes and all the prisoners:–

Les chevaliers ont encontrez,
Qui du tournois sont retournes,
Qui du tout en tout est feru.
S’en avoit tout le pris eu
Le chevalier qui reperoit
Des messes qu’ oies avoit.
Les autres qui s’en reperoient
Le saluent et le conjoient
Et distrent bien que onques mes
Nul chevalier ne prist tel fes
D’armes com il ot fet ce jour;
A tousjours en avroit l’onnour.
Moult en i ot qui se rendoient
A lui prisonier, et disoient
“Nous somes vostre prisonier,
Ne nous ne pourrions nier,
Ne nous aiez par armes pris.”
Lors ne fu plus cil esbahis,
Car il a entendu tantost
Que cele fu pour lui en l’ost
Pour qui il fu en la chapelle.

His friends, returning from the fight, On the way there met the knight,
For the jousts were wholly run,
And all the prizes had been won
By the knight who had not stirred
From the masses he had heard.
All the knights, as they came by,
Saluted him and gave him joy,
And frankly said that never yet
Had any knight performed such feat, Nor ever honour won so great
As he had done in arms that day;
While many of them stopped to say
That they all his prisoners were:
“In truth, your prisoners we are:
We cannot but admit it true:
Taken we were in arms by you!”
Then the truth dawned on him there, And all at once he saw the light,
That She, by whom he stood in prayer, –The Virgin,–stood by him in fight!

The moral of the tale belongs to the best feudal times. The knight at once recognized that he had become the liege-man of the Queen, and henceforth must render his service entirely to her. So he called his “barons,” or tenants, together, and after telling them what had happened, took leave of them and the “siecle”:–

“Moult est ciest tournoiement beaux
Ou ele a pour moi tournoie;
Mes trop l’avroit mal emploie
Se pour lui je ne tournoioie!
Fox seroie se retournoie
A la mondaine vanite.
A dieu promet en verite
Que james ne tournoierai
Fors devant le juge verai
Qui conoit le bon chevalier
Et selonc le fet set jutgier.”
Lors prent congie piteusement,
Et maint en plorent tenrement.
D’euls se part, en une abaie
Servi puis la vierge Marie.

“Glorious has the tourney been
Where for me has fought the Queen; But a disgrace for me it were
If I tourneyed not for her.
Traitor to her should I be,
Returned to worldly vanity.
I promise truly, by God’s grace,
Never again the lists to see,
Except before that Judge’s face,
Who knows the true knight from the base, And gives to each his final place.”
Then piteously he takes his leave
While in tears his barons grieve.
So he parts, and in an abbey
Serves henceforth the Virgin Mary.

Observe that in this case Mary exacted no service! Usually the legends are told, as in this instance, by priests, though they were told in the same spirit by laymen, as you can see in the poems of Rutebeuf, and they would not have been told very differently by soldiers, if one may judge from Joinville; but commonly the Virgin herself prescribed the kind of service she wished. Especially to the young knight who had, of his own accord, chosen her for his liege, she showed herself as exacting as other great ladies showed themselves toward their Lancelots and Tristans. When she chose, she could even indulge in more or less coquetry, else she could never have appealed to the sympathies of the thirteenth-century knight- errant. One of her miracles told how she disciplined the young men who were too much in the habit of assuming her service in order to obtain selfish objects. A youthful chevalier, much given to tournaments and the other worldly diversions of the siecle, fell in love, after the rigorous obligation of his class, as you know from your Dulcinea del Toboso, with a lady who, as was also prescribed by the rules of courteous love, declined to listen to him. An abbot of his acquaintance, sympathizing with his distress, suggested to him the happy idea of appealing for help to the Queen of Heaven. He followed the advice, and for an entire year shut himself up, and prayed to Mary, in her chapel, that she would soften the heart of his beloved, and bring her to listen to his prayer. At the end of the twelvemonth, fixed as a natural and sufficient proof of his earnestness in devotion, he felt himself entitled to indulge again in innocent worldly pleasures, and on the first morning after his release, he started out on horseback for a day’s hunting. Probably thousands of young knights and squires were always doing more or less the same thing, and it was quite usual that, as they rode through the fields or forests, they should happen on a solitary chapel or shrine, as this knight did. He stopped long enough to kneel in it and renew his prayer to the Queen:–

La mere dieu qui maint chetif
A retrait de chetivete
Par sa grant debonnairte
Par sa courtoise courtoisie
Au las qui tant l’apele et prie
Ignelement s’est demonstree,
D’une coronne corronnee
Plaine de pierres precieuses
Si flamboianz si precieuses
Pour pou li euil ne li esluisent.
Si netement ainsi reluisent
Et resplendissent com la raie
Qui en este au matin raie.
Tant par a bel et cler le vis
Que buer fu mez, ce li est vis,
Qui s’i puest assez mirer.
“Cele qui te fait soupirer
Et en si grant erreur t’a mis,”
Fait nostre dame, “biau douz amis, Est ele plus bele que moi?”
Li chevaliers a tel effroi
De la clarte, ne sai que face;
Ses mains giete devant sa face;
Tel hide a et tel freeur
Chaoir se laisse de freeur;
Mais cele en qui pitie est toute
Li dist: “Amis, or n’aies doute!
Je suis cele, n’en doute mie,
Qui te doi faire avoir t’amie.
Or prens garde que tu feras.
Cele que tu miex ameras
De nous ii auras a amie.”

God’s Mother who to many a wretch
Has brought relief from wretchedness. By her infinite goodness,
By her courteous courteousness,
To her suppliant in distress
Came from heaven quickly down;
On her head she bore the crown,
Full of precious stones and gems
Darting splendour, flashing flames, Till the eye near lost its sight
In the keenness of the light,
As the summer morning’s sun
Blinds the eyes it shines upon.
So beautiful and bright her face,
Only to look on her is grace.

“She who has caused you thus to sigh, And has brought you to this end,”–
Said Our Lady,–“Tell me, friend,
Is she handsomer than I?”
Scared by her brilliancy, the knight Knows not what to do for fright;
He clasps his hands before his face, And in his shame and his disgrace
Falls prostrate on the ground with fear; But she with pity ever near
Tells him:–“Friend, be not afraid! Doubt not that I am she whose aid
Shall surely bring your love to you; But take good care what you shall do!
She you shall love most faithfully Of us two, shall your mistress be.”

One is at a loss to imagine what a young gentleman could do, in such a situation, except to obey, with the fewest words possible, the suggestion so gracefully intended. Queen’s favours might be fatal gifts, but they were much more fatal to reject than to accept. Whatever might be the preferences of the knight, he had invited his own fate, and in consequence was fortunate to be allowed the option of dying and going to heaven, or dying without going to heaven. Mary was not always so gentle with young men who deserted or neglected her for an earthly rival;–the offence which irritated her most, and occasionally caused her to use language which hardly bears translation into modern English. Without meaning to assert that the Queen of Heaven was jealous as Queen Blanche herself, one must still admit that she was very severe on lovers who showed willingness to leave her service, and take service with any other lady. One of her admirers, educated for the priesthood but not yet in full orders, was obliged by reasons of family interest to quit his career in order to marry. An insult like this was more than Mary could endure, and she gave the young man a lesson he never forgot:–

Ireement li prent a dire
La mere au roi de paradis:
“Di moi, di moi, tu que jadis
M’amoies tant de tout ton coeur.
Pourquoi m’as tu jete puer?
Di moi, di moi, ou est donc cele
Qui plus de moi bone est et bele?… Pourquoi, pourquoi, las durfeus,
Las engignez, las deceuz,
Me lais pour une lasse fame,
Qui suis du del Royne et Dame?
Enne fais tu trop mauvais change
Qui tu por une fame estrange
Me laisses qui par amors t’amoie
Et ja ou ciel t’apareilloie
En mes chambres un riche lit
Por couchier t’ame a grand delit?
Trop par as faites grant merveilles S’autrement tost ne te conseilles
Ou ciel serra tes lits deffais
Et en la flamme d’enfer faiz!”

With anger flashing in her eyes
Answers the Queen of Paradise:
“Tell me, tell me! you of old
Loved me once with love untold;
Why now throw me aside?
Tell me, tell me! where a bride
Kinder or fairer have you won?…
Wherefore, wherefore, wretched one, Deceived, betrayed, misled, undone,
Leave me for a creature mean,
Me, who am of Heaven the Queen?
Can you make a worse exchange,
You that for a woman strange,
Leave me who, with perfect love,
Waiting you in heaven above,
Had in my chamber richly dressed
A bed of bliss your soul to rest?
Terrible is your mistake!
Unless you better council take,
In heaven your bed shall be unmade, And in the flames of hell be spread.”

A mistress who loved in this manner was not to be gainsaid. No earthly love had a chance of holding its own against this unfair combination of heaven and hell, and Mary was as unscrupulous as any other great lady in abusing all her advantages in order to save HER souls. Frenchmen never found fault with abuses of power for what they thought a serious object. The more tyrannical Mary was, the more her adorers adored, and they wholly approved, both in love and in law, the rule that any man who changed his allegiance without permission, did so at his own peril. His life and property were forfeit. Mary showed him too much grace in giving him an option.

Even in anger Mary always remained a great lady, and in the ordinary relations of society her manners were exquisite, as they were, according to Joinville, in the court of Saint Louis, when tempers were not overwrought. The very brutality of the brutal compelled the courteous to exaggerate courtesy, and some of the royal family were as coarse as the king was delicate in manners. In heaven the manners were perfect, and almost as stately as those of Roland and Oliver. On one occasion Saint Peter found himself embarrassed by an affair which the public opinion of the Court of Heaven, although not by any means puritanic, thought more objectionable–in fact, more frankly discreditable–than an honest corrupt job ought to be; and even his influence, though certainly considerable, wholly failed to carry it through the law-court. The case, as reported by Gaultier de Coincy, was this: A very worthless creature of Saint Peter’s–a monk of Cologne–who had led a scandalous life, and “ne cremoit dieu, ordre ne roule,” died, and in due course of law was tried, convicted, and dragged off by the devils to undergo his term of punishment. Saint Peter could not desert his sinner, though much ashamed of him, and accordingly made formal application to the Trinity for a pardon. The Trinity, somewhat severely, refused. Finding his own interest insufficient, Saint Peter tried to strengthen it by asking the archangels to help him; but the case was too much for them also, and they declined. The brother apostles were appealed to, with the same result; and finally even the saints, though they had so obvious interest in keeping friendly relations with Peter, found public opinion too strong to defy. The case was desperate. The Trinity were–or was–emphatic, and–what was rare in the Middle Ages–every member of the feudal hierarchy sustained its decision. Nothing more could be done in the regular way. Saint Peter was obliged to divest himself of authority, and place himself and his dignity in the hands of the Virgin. Accordingly he asked for an audience, and stated the case to Our Lady. With the utmost grace, she instantly responded:–

“Pierre, Pierre,” dit Nostre Dame,
“En moult grand poine et por ceste ame De mon douz filz me fierai
Tant que pour toi l’en prierai.”
La Mere Dieu lors s’est levee,
Devant son filz s’en est alee
Et ses virges toutes apres.
De lui si tint Pierre pres,
Quar sanz doutance bien savoit
Que sa besoigne faite avoit
Puisque cele l’avoit en prise
Ou forme humaine avoit prise.

Quant sa Mere vit li douz Sire
Qui de son doit daigna escrire
Qu’en honourant et pere et mere
En contre lui a chere clere
Se leva moult festivement
Et si li dist moult doucement;
“Bien veigniez vous, ma douce mere,” Comme douz filz, comme douz pere.
Doucement l’a par la main prise
Et doucement lez lui assise;
Lors li a dit:–“A douce chiere,
Que veus ma douce mere chiere,
Mes amies et mes sereurs?”

“Pierre, Pierre,” our Lady said,
“With all my heart I’ll give you aid, And to my gentle Son I’ll sue
Until I beg that soul for you.”
God’s Mother then arose straightway, And sought her Son without delay;
All her virgins followed her,
And Saint Peter kept him near,
For he knew his task was done
And his prize already won,
Since it was hers, in whom began
The life of God in form of Man.

When our dear Lord, who deigned to write With his own hand that in his sight
Those in his kingdom held most dear Father and mother honoured here,–
When He saw His Mother’s face
He rose and said with gentle grace: “Well are you come, my heart’s desire!” Like loving son, like gracious sire;
Took her hand gently in His own;
Gently placed her on His throne,
Wishing her graciously good cheer:– “What brings my gentle Mother here,
My sister, and my dearest friend?”

One can see Queen Blanche going to beg–or command–a favour of her son, King Louis, and the stately dignity of their address, while Saint Peter and the virgins remain in the antechamber; but, as for Saint Peter’s lost soul, the request was a mere form, and the doors of paradise were instantly opened to it, after such brief formalities as should tend to preserve the technical record of the law-court. We tread here on very delicate ground. Gaultier de Coincy, being a priest and a prior, could take liberties which we cannot or ought not to take. The doctrines of the Church are too serious and too ancient to be wilfully misstated, and the doctrines of what is called Mariolatry were never even doctrines of the Church. Yet it is true that, in the hearts of Mary’s servants, the Church and its doctrines were at the mercy of Mary’s will. Gaultier de Coincy claimed that Mary exasperated the devils by exercising a wholly arbitrary and illegitimate power. Gaultier not merely admitted, but frankly asserted, that this was the fact:–

Font li deables:–“de cest plait,
Mal por mal, assez miex nous plest Que nous aillons au jugement
Li haut jugeur qui ne ment.
C’au plait n’au jugement sa mere
De droit jugier est trop avere;
Mais dieu nous juge si adroit,
Plainement nous lest notre droit.
Sa mere juge en tel maniere
Qu’elle nous met touz jors arriere Quant nous cuidons estre devant.
. . . . . . .
En ciel et en terre est plus Dame
Par un petit que Diex ne soit.
Il l’aimme tant et tant la croit,
N’est riens qu’elle face ne die
Qu’il desveile ne contredie.
Quant qu’elle veut li fait acroire, S’elle disoit la pie est noire
Et l’eue trouble est toute clere:
Si diroit il voir dit ma mere!”

“In this law-suit,” say the devils,
“Since it is a choice of evils,
We had best appeal on high
To the Judge Who does not lie.
What is law to any other,
‘T is no use pleading with His Mother; But God judges us so true
That He leaves us all our due.
His Mother judges us so short
That she throws us out of court
When we ought to win our cause.
. . . . . . . .
In heaven and earth she makes more laws By far, than God Himself can do,
He loves her so, and trusts her so, There’s nothing she can do or say
That He’ll refuse, or say her nay. Whatever she may want is right,
Though she say that black is white, And dirty water clear as snow:–
My Mother says it, and it’s so!”

If the Virgin took the feelings of the Trinity into consideration, or recognized its existence except as her Son, the case has not been reported, or, at all events, has been somewhat carefully kept out of sight by the Virgin’s poets. The devils were emphatic in denouncing Mary for absorbing the whole Trinity. In one sharply disputed case in regard to a villain, or labourer, whose soul the Virgin claimed because he had learned the “Ave Maria,” the devils became very angry, indeed, and protested vehemently:–

Li lait maufe, li rechinie
Adonc ont ris et eschinie.
C’en font il:–“Merveillans merveille! Por ce vilain plate oreille
Aprent vo Dame a saluer,
Se nous vorro trestous tuer
Se regarder osons vers s’ame.
De tout le monde vieut estre Dame! Ains nule dame ne fu tiez.
II est avis qu’ele soit Diex
Ou qu’ele ait Diex en main bornie. Nul besoigne n’est fournie,
Ne terrienne ne celestre,
Que toute Dame ne veille estre.
Il est avis que tout soit suen;
Dieu ne deable n’i ont rien.”

The ugly demons laugh outright
And grind their teeth with envious spite; Crying:–“Marvel marvellous!
Because that flat-eared ploughman there Learned to make your Dame a prayer,
She would like to kill us all
Just for looking toward his soul.
All the world she wants to rule!
No such Dame was ever seen!
She thinks that she is God, I ween, Or holds Him in her hollow hand.
Not a judgment or command
Or an order can be given
Here on earth or there in heaven,
That she does not want control.
She thinks that she ordains the whole, And keeps it all for her own profit.
God nor Devil share not of it.”

As regards Mary of Chartres, these charges seem to have been literally true, except so far as concerned the “laid maufe” Pierre de Dreux. Gaultier de Coincy saw no impropriety in accepting, as sufficiently exact, the allegations of the devils against the Virgin’s abuse of power. Down to the death of Queen Blanche, which is all that concerns us, the public saw no more impropriety in it than Gaultier did. The ugly, envious devils, notorious as students of the Latin Quarter, were perpetually making the same charges against Queen Blanche and her son, without disturbing her authority. No one could conceive that the Virgin held less influence in heaven than the queen mother on earth. Nevertheless there were points in the royal policy and conduct of Mary which thoughtful men even then hesitated to approve. The Church itself never liked to be dragged too far under feminine influence, although the moment it discarded feminine influence it lost nearly everything of any value to it or to the world, except its philosophy. Mary’s tastes were too popular; some of the uglier devils said they were too low; many ladies and gentlemen of the “siecle” thought them disreputable, though they dared not say so, or dared say so only by proxy, as in “Aucassins.” As usual, one must go to the devils for the exact truth, and in spite of their outcry, the devils admitted that they had no reason to complain of Mary’s administration:–

“Les beles dames de grant pris
Qui traynant vont ver et gris,
Roys, roynes, dus et contesses, En enfer vienent a granz presses; Mais ou ciel vont pres tout a fait
Tort et bocu et contrefait.
Ou ciel va toute la ringaille;
Le grain avons et diex la paille.”

“All the great dames and ladies fair
Who costly robes and ermine wear,
Kings, queens, and countesses and lords Come down to hell in endless hordes;
While up to heaven go the lamed,
The dwarfs, the humpbacks, and the maimed; To heaven goes the whole riff-raff;
We get the grain and God the chaff.”

True it was, although one should not say it jestingly, that the Virgin embarrassed the Trinity; and perhaps this was the reason, behind all the other excellent reasons, why men loved and adored her with a passion such as no other deity has ever inspired: and why we, although utter strangers to her, are not far from getting down on our knees and praying to her still. Mary concentrated in herself the whole rebellion of man against fate; the whole protest against divine law; the whole contempt for human law as its outcome; the whole unutterable fury of human nature beating itself against the walls of its prison-house, and suddenly seized by a hope that in the Virgin man had found a door of escape. She was above law; she took feminine pleasure in turning hell into an ornament; she delighted in trampling on every social distinction in this world and the next. She knew that the universe was as unintelligible to her, on any theory of morals, as it was to her worshippers, and she felt, like them, no sure conviction that it was any more intelligible to the Creator of it. To her, every suppliant was a universe in itself, to be judged apart, on his own merits, by his love for her,–by no means on his orthodoxy, or his conventional standing in the Church, or according to his correctness in defining the nature of the Trinity. The convulsive hold which Mary to this day maintains over human imagination–as you can see at Lourdes–was due much less to her power of saving soul or body than to her sympathy with people who suffered under law,–divine or human,–justly or unjustly, by accident or design, by decree of God or by guile of Devil. She cared not a straw for conventional morality, and she had no notion of letting her friends be punished, to the tenth or any other generation, for the sins of their ancestors or the peccadilloes of Eve.

So Mary filled heaven with a sort of persons little to the taste of any respectable middle-class society, which has trouble enough in making this world decent and pay its bills, without having to continue the effort in another. Mary stood in a Church of her own, so independent that the Trinity might have perished without much affecting her position; but, on the other hand, the Trinity could look on and see her dethroned with almost a breath of relief. Aucassins and the devils of Gaultier de Coincy foresaw her danger. Mary’s treatment of respectable and law-abiding people who had no favours to ask, and were reasonably confident of getting to heaven by the regular judgment, without expense, rankled so deeply that three hundred years later the Puritan reformers were not satisfied with abolishing her, but sought to abolish the woman altogether as the cause of all evil in heaven and on earth. The Puritans abandoned the New Testament and the Virgin in order to go back to the beginning, and renew the quarrel with Eve. This is the Church’s affair, not ours, and the women are competent to settle it with Church or State, without help from outside; but honest tourists are seriously interested in putting the feeling back into the dead architecture where it belongs.

Mary was rarely harsh to any suppliant or servant, and she took no special interest in humiliating the rich or the learned or the wise. For them, law was made; by them, law was administered; and with their doings Mary never arbitrarily interfered; but occasionally she could not resist the temptation to intimate her opinion of the manner in which the Trinity allowed their–the regular–Church to be administered. She was a queen, and never for an instant forgot it, but she took little thought about her divine rights, if she had any,–and in fact Saint Bernard preferred her without them,–while she was scandalized at the greed of officials in her Son’s Court. One day a rich usurer and a very poor old woman happened to be dying in the same town. Gaultier de Coincy did not say, as an accurate historian should, that he was present, nor did he mention names or dates, although it was one of his longest and best stories. Mary never loved bankers, and had no reason for taking interest in this one, or for doing him injury; but it happened that the parish priest was summoned to both death-beds at the same time, and neglected the old pauper in the hope of securing a bequest for his church from the banker. This was the sort of fault that most annoyed Mary in the Church of the Trinity, which, in her opinion, was not cared for as it should be, and she felt it her duty to intimate as much.

Although the priest refused to come at the old woman’s summons, his young clerk, who seems to have acted as vicar though not in orders, took pity on her, and went alone with the sacrament to her hut, which was the poorest of poor hovels even for that age:–

Close de piex et de serciaus
Comme une viez souz a porciaus.

Roof of hoops, and wall of logs,
Like a wretched stye for hogs.

There the beggar lay, already insensible or at the last gasp, on coarse thatch, on the ground, covered by an old hempen sack. The picture represented the extremest poverty of the thirteenth century; a hovel without even a feather bed or bedstead, as Aucassins’ ploughman described his mother’s want; and the old woman alone, dying, as the clerk appeared at the opening:–

Li clers qui fu moult bien apris
Le cors Nostre Seigneur a pris
A l’ostel a la povre fame
S’en vient touz seus mes n’i treuve ame. Si grant clarte y a veue
Que grant peeur en a eue.
Ou povre lit a la vieillete
Qui couvers iert d’une nateite

Assises voit XII puceles
Si avenans et si tres beles
N’est nus tant penser i seust
Qui raconter le vout peust.
A coutee voist Nostre Dame
Sus le chevez la povre fame
Qui por la mort sue et travaille.
La Mere Dieu d’une tovaille
Qui blanche est plus que fleur de lis La grant sueur d’entor le vis
A ses blanches mains li essuie.

The clerk, well in these duties taught, The body of our Saviour brought
Where she lay upon her bed
Without a soul to give her aid.
But such brightness there he saw
As filled his mind with fear and awe. Covered with a mat of straw
The woman lay; but round and near

A dozen maidens sat, so fair
No mortal man could dream such light, No mortal tongue describe the sight.
Then he saw that next the bed,
By the poor old woman’s head,
As she gasped and strained for breath In the agony of death,
Sat Our Lady,–bending low,–
While, with napkin white as snow,
She dried the death-sweat on the brow.

The clerk, in terror, hesitated whether to turn and run away, but Our Lady beckoned him to the bed, while all rose and kneeled devoutly to the sacrament. Then she said to the trembling clerk:–

“Friend, be not afraid!
But seat yourself, to give us aid, Beside these maidens, on the bed.”

And when the clerk had obeyed, she continued–

“Or tost, amis!” fait Nostre Dame,
“Confessies ceste bone fame
Et puis apres tout sans freeur
Recevra tost son sauveeur
Qui char et sanc vout en moi prendre.”

“Come quickly, friend!” Our Lady says, “This good old woman now confess
And afterwards without distress
She will at once receive her God
Who deigned in me take flesh and blood.”

After the sacrament came a touch of realism that recalls the simple death-scenes that Walter Scott described in his grand twelfth- century manner. The old woman lingered pitiably in her agony:–

Lors dit une des demoiselles
A madame sainte Marie:
“Encore, dame, n’istra mie
Si com moi semble du cors l’ame.”
“Bele fille,” fait Nostre Dame,
“Traveiller lais un peu le cors,
Aincois que l’ame en isse hors,
Si que puree soil et nete
Aincois qu’en Paradis la mete.
N’est or mestier qui soions plus,
Ralon nous en ou ciel lassus,
Quant tens en iert bien reviendrons En paradis l’ame emmerrons.”

A maiden said to Saint Marie,
“My lady, still it seems to me
The soul will not the body fly.”
“Fair child!” Our Lady made reply, “Still let awhile the body fight
Before the soul shall leave it quite. So that it pure may be, and cleansed
When it to Paradise ascends.
No longer need we here remain;
We can go back to heaven again;
We will return before she dies,
And take the soul to paradise.”

The rest of the story concerned the usurer, whose death-bed was of a different character, but Mary’s interest in death-beds of that kind was small. The fate of the usurer mattered the less because she knew too well how easily the banker, in good credit, could arrange with the officials of the Trinity to open the doors of paradise for him. The administration of heaven was very like the administration of France; the Queen Mother saw many things of which she could not wholly approve; but her nature was pity, not justice, and she shut her eyes to much that she could not change. Her miracles, therefore, were for the most part mere evidence of her pity for those who needed it most, and these were rarely the well-to-do people of the siecle, but more commonly the helpless. Every saint performed miracles, and these are standard, not peculiar to any one intermediator; and every saint protected his own friends; but beyond these exhibitions of power, which are more or less common to the whole hierarchy below the Trinity, Mary was the mother of pity and the only hope of despair. One might go on for a volume, studying the character of Mary and the changes that time made in it, from the earliest Byzantine legends down to the daily recorded miracles at Lourdes; no character in history has had so long or varied a development, and none so sympathetic; but the greatest poets long ago plundered that mine of rich motives, and have stolen what was most dramatic for popular use. The Virgin’s most famous early miracle seems to have been that of the monk Theophilus, which was what one might call her salvation of Faust. Another Byzantine miracle was an original version of Shylock. Shakespeare and his fellow dramatists plundered the Church legends as freely as their masters plundered the Church treasuries, yet left a mass of dramatic material untouched. Let us pray the Virgin that it may remain untouched, for, although a good miracle was in its day worth much money–so much that the rival shrines stole each other’s miracles without decency–one does not care to see one’s Virgin put to money- making for Jew theatre-managers. One’s two-hundred and fifty million arithmetical ancestors shrink.

For mere amusement, too, the miracle is worth reading of the little Jew child who ignorantly joined in the Christian communion, and was thrown into a furnace by his father in consequence; but when the furnace was opened, the Virgin appeared seated in the midst of the flames, with the little child unharmed in her lap. Better is that called the “Tombeor de Notre Dame,” only recently printed; told by some unknown poet of the thirteenth century, and told as well as any of Gaultier de Coincy’s. Indeed the “Tombeor de Notre Dame” has had more success in our time than it ever had in its own, as far as one knows, for it appeals to a quiet sense of humour that pleases modern French taste as much as it pleased the Virgin. One fears only to spoil it by translation, but if a translation be merely used as a glossary or footnote, it need not do fatal harm.

The story is that of a tumbler–tombeor, street-acrobat–who was disgusted with the world, as his class has had a reputation for becoming, and who was fortunate enough to obtain admission into the famous monastery of Clairvaux, where Saint Bernard may have formerly been blessed by the Virgin’s presence. Ignorant at best, and especially ignorant of letters, music, and the offices of a religious society, he found himself unable to join in the services:- –

Car n’ot vescu fors de tumer
Et d’espringier et de baler.
Treper, saillir, ice savoit;
Ne d’autre rien il ne savoit;
Car ne savoit autre lecon
Ne “pater noster” ne chancon
Ne le “credo” ne le salu
Ne rien qui fust a son salu.

For he had learned no other thing
Than to tumble, dance and spring:
Leaping and vaulting, that he knew, But nothing better could he do.
He could not say his prayers by rote; Not “Pater noster”, not a note,
Not “Ave Mary,” nor the creed;
Nothing to help his soul in need.

Tormented by the sense of his uselessness to the society whose bread he ate without giving a return in service, and afraid of being expelled as a useless member, one day while the bells were calling to mass he hid in the crypt, and in despair began to soliloquize before the Virgin’s altar, at the same spot, one hopes, where the Virgin had shown herself, or might have shown herself, in her infinite bounty, to Saint Bernard, a hundred years before:–

“Hai,” fait il, “con suis trais!
Or dira ja cascuns sa laisse
Et jo suis ci i hues en laisse
Qui ne fas ci fors que broster
Et viandes por nient gaster.
Si ne dirai ne ne ferai?
Par la mere deu, si ferai!
Ja n’en serai ore repris;
Jo ferai ce que j’ai apris;
Si servirai de men mestier
La mere deu en son mostier;
Li autre servent de canter
Et jo servirai de tumer.”
Sa cape oste, si se despoille,
Deles l’autel met sa despoille,
Mais por sa char que ne soit nue
Une cotele a retenue
Qui moult estait tenre et alise,
Petit vaut miex d’une chemise,
Si est en pur le cors remes.
Il s’est bien chains et acesmes,
Sa cote caint et bien s’atorne,
Devers l’ymage se retorne
Mout humblement et si l’esgarde:
“Dame,” fait il, “en vostre garde
Comant jo et mon cors et m’ame.
Douce reine, douce dame,
Ne despisies ce que jo sai
Car jo me voil metre a l’asai
De vos servir en bone foi
Se dex m’ait sans nul desroi.
Jo ne sai canter ne lire
Mais certes jo vos voil eslire
Tos mes biax gieus a eslicon.
Or soie al fuer de taurecon
Qui trepe et saut devant sa mere.
Dame, qui n’estes mie amere
A cels qui vos servent a droit,
Quelsque jo soie, por vos soit!”

Lors li commence a faire saus
Bas et petits et grans et haus

Primes deseur et puis desos,
Puis se remet sor ses genols,
Devers l’ymage, et si l’encline:
“He!” fait il, “tres douce reine
Par vo pitie, par vo francise,
Ne despisies pas mon servise!”

“Ha!” said he, “how I am ashamed!
To sing his part goes now each priest, And I stand here, a tethered beast,
Who nothing do but browse and feed And waste the food that others need.
Shall I say nothing, and stand still? No! by God’s mother, but I will!
She shall not think me here for naught; At least I’ll do what I’ve been taught! At least I’ll serve in my own way
God’s mother in her church to-day. The others serve to pray and sing;
I will serve to leap and spring.”
Then he strips him of his gown,
Lays it on the altar down;
But for himself he takes good care Not to show his body bare,
But keeps a jacket, soft and thin, Almost a shirt, to tumble in.
Clothed in this supple woof of maille His strength and health and form showed well. And when his belt is buckled fast,
Toward the Virgin turns at last:
Very humbly makes his prayer;
“Lady!” says he, “to your care
I commit my soul and frame.
Gentle Virgin, gentle dame,
Do not despise what I shall do,
For I ask only to please you,
To serve you like an honest man,
So help me God, the best I can.
I cannot chant, nor can I read,
But I can show you here instead,
All my best tricks to make you laugh, And so shall be as though a calf
Should leap and jump before its dam. Lady, who never yet could blame
Those who serve you well and true, All that I am, I am for you.”

Then he begins to jump about,
High and low, and in and out,

Straining hard with might and main;
Then, falling on his knees again,
Before the image bows his face:
“By your pity! by your grace!”
Says he, “Ha! my gentle queen,
Do not despise my offering!”

In his earnestness he exerted himself until, at the end of his strength, he lay exhausted and unconscious on the altar steps. Pleased with his own exhibition, and satisfied that the Virgin was equally pleased, he continued these devotions every day, until at last his constant and singular absence from the regular services attracted the curiosity of a monk, who kept watch on him and reported his eccentric exercise to the Abbot.

The mediaeval monasteries seem to have been gently administered. Indeed, this has been made the chief reproach on them, and the excuse for robbing them for the benefit of a more energetic crown and nobility who tolerated no beggars or idleness but their own; at least, it is safe to say that few well-regulated and economically administered modern charities would have the patience of the Abbot of Clairvaux, who, instead of calling up the weak-minded tombeor and sending him back to the world to earn a living by his profession, went with his informant to the crypt, to see for himself what the strange report meant. We have seen at Chartres what a crypt may be, and how easily one might hide in its shadows while mass is said at the altars. The Abbot and his informant hid themselves behind a column in the shadow, and watched the whole performance to its end when the exhausted tumbler dropped unconscious and drenched with perspiration on the steps of the altar, with the words:–

“Dame!” fait il, “ne puis plus ore;
Mais voire je reviendrai encore.”

“Lady!” says he, “no more I can,
But truly I’ll come back again!”

You can imagine the dim crypt; the tumbler lying unconscious beneath the image of the Virgin; the Abbot peering out from the shadow of the column, and wondering what sort of discipline he could inflict for this unforeseen infraction of rule; when suddenly, before he could decide what next to do, the vault above the altar, of its own accord, opened:–

L’abes esgarde sans atendre
Et vit de la volte descendre
Une dame si gloriouse
Ains nus ne vit si preciouse
Ni si ricement conreee,
N’onques tant bele ne fu nee.
Ses vesteures sont bien chieres
D’or et de precieuses pieres.

Avec li estoient li angle
Del ciel amont, et li arcangle,
Qui entor le menestrel vienent,
Si le solacent et sostienent.
Quant entor lui sont arengie
S’ot tot son cuer asoagie.
Dont s’aprestent de lui servir
Por ce qu’ils volrent deservir
La servise que fait la dame
Qui tant est precieuse geme.
Et la douce reine france
Tenoit une touaille blance,
S’en avente son menestrel
Mout doucement devant l’autel.
La franc dame debonnaire
Le col, le cors, et le viaire
Li avente por refroidier;
Bien s’entremet de lui aidier;
La dame bien s’i abandone;
Li bons hom garde ne s’en done,
Car il ne voit, si ne set mie
Qu’il ait si bele compaignie.

The Abbot strains his eyes to see,
And, from the vaulting, suddenly,
A lady steps,–so glorious,–
Beyond all thought so precious,–
Her robes so rich, so nobly worn,– So rare the gems the robes adorn,–
As never yet so fair was born.

Along with her the angels were,
Archangels stood beside her there; Round about the tumbler group
To give him solace, bring him hope; And when round him in ranks they stood, His whole heart felt its strength renewed. So they haste to give him aid
Because their wills are only made
To serve the service of their Queen, Most precious gem the earth has seen.
And the lady, gentle, true,
Holds in her hand a towel new;
Fans him with her hand divine
Where he lies before the shrine.
The kind lady, full of grace,
Fans his neck, his breast, his face! Fans him herself to give him air!
Labours, herself, to help him there! The lady gives herself to it;
The poor man takes no heed of it;
For he knows not and cannot see
That he has such fair company.

Beyond this we need not care to go. If you cannot feel the colour and quality–the union of naivete and art, the refinement, the infinite delicacy and tenderness–of this little poem, then nothing will matter much to you; and if you can feel it, you can feel, without more assistance, the majesty of Chartres.



Super cuncta, subter cuncta,
Extra cuncta, intra cuncta,
Intra cuncta nec inclusus,
Extra cuncta nec exclusus,
Super cuncta nec elatus,
Subter cuncta nec substratus,
Super totus, praesidendo,
Subter totus, sustinendo,
Extra totus, complectendo,
Intra totus est, implendo.

According to Hildebert, Bishop of Le Mans and Archbishop of Tours, these verses describe God. Hildebert was the first poet of his time; no small merit, since he was contemporary with the “Chanson de Roland” and the first crusade; he was also a strong man, since he was able, as Bishop of Le Mans, to gain great credit by maintaining himself against William the Norman and Fulk of Anjou; and finally he was a prelate of high authority. He lived between 1055 and 1133. Supposing his verses to have been written in middle life, toward the year 1100, they may be taken to represent the accepted doctrine of the Church at the time of the first crusade. They were little more than a versified form of the Latin of Saint Gregory the Great who wrote five-hundred years before: “Ipse manet intra omnia, ipse extra omnia, ipse supra omnia, ipse infra omnia; et superior est per potentiam et inferior per sustentationem; exterior per magnitudinem et interior per subtilitatem; sursum regens, deorsum continens, extra circumdans, interius penetrans; nec alia parte superior, alia inferior, aut alia ex parte exterior atque ex alia manet interior, sed unus idemque totus ubique.” According to Saint Gregory, in the sixth century, God was “one and the same and wholly everywhere”; “immanent within everything, without everything, above everything, below everything, sursum regens, dear sum continens”; while according to Archbishop Hildebert in the eleventh century: “God is overall things, under all things; outside all, inside all; within but not enclosed; without but not excluded; above but not raised up; below but not depressed; wholly above, presiding; wholly beneath, sustaining; wholly without, embracing; wholly within, filling.” Finally, according to Benedict Spinoza, another five hundred years later still: “God is a being, absolutely infinite; that is to say, a substance made up of an infinity of attributes, each one of which expresses an eternal and infinite essence.”

Spinoza was the great pantheist, whose name is still a terror to the orthodox, and whose philosophy is–very properly–a horror to the Church–and yet Spinoza never wrote a line that, to the unguided student, sounds more Spinozist than the words of Saint Gregory and Archbishop Hildebert. If God is everywhere; wholly; presiding, sustaining, embracing and filling, “sursum regens, deorsum continens,” He is the only possible energy, and leaves no place for human will to act. A force which is “one and the same and wholly everywhere” is more Spinozist than Spinoza, and is likely to be mistaken for frank pantheism by the large majority of religious minds who must try to understand it without a theological course in a Jesuit college. In the year 1100 Jesuit colleges did not exist, and even the great Dominican and Franciscan schools were far from sight in the future; but the School of Notre Dame at Paris existed, and taught the existence of God much as Archbishop Hildebert described it. The most successful lecturer was William of Champeaux, and to any one who ever heard of William at all, the name instantly calls up the figure of Abelard, in flesh and blood, as he sang to Heloise the songs which he says resounded through Europe. The twelfth century, with all its sparkle, would be dull without Abelard and Heloise. With infinite regret, Heloise must be left out of the story, because she was not a philosopher or a poet or an artist, but only a Frenchwoman to the last millimetre of her shadow. Even though one may suspect that her famous letters to Abelard are, for the most part, by no means above scepticism, she was, by French standards, worth at least a dozen Abelards, if only because she called Saint Bernard a false apostle.

Unfortunately, French standards, by which she must be judged in our ignorance, take for granted that she philosophized only for the sake of Abelard, while Abelard taught philosophy to her not so much because he believed in philosophy or in her as because he believed in himself. To this day, Abelard remains a problem as perplexing as he must have been to Heloise, and almost as fascinating. As the west portal of Chartres is the door through which one must of necessity enter the Gothic architecture of the thirteenth century, so Abelard is the portal of approach to the Gothic thought and philosophy within. Neither art nor thought has a modern equivalent; only Heloise, like Isolde, unites the ages.

The first crusade seems, in perspective, to have rilled the whole field of vision in France at the time; but, in fact, France seethed with other emotions, and while the crusaders set out to scale heaven by force at Jerusalem, the monks, who remained at home, undertook to scale heaven by prayer and by absorption of body and soul in God; the Cistercian Order was founded in 1098, and was joined in 1112 by young Bernard, born in 1090 at Fontaines-les-Dijon, drawing with him or after him so many thousands of young men into the self-immolation of the monastery as carried dismay into the hearts of half the women of France. At the same time–that is, about 1098 or 1100–Abelard came up to Paris from Brittany, with as much faith in logic as Bernard had in prayer or Godfrey of Bouillon in arms, and led an equal or even a greater number of combatants to the conquest of heaven by force of pure reason. None showed doubt. Hundreds of thousands of young men wandered from their provinces, mostly to Palestine, largely to cloisters, but also in great numbers to Paris and the schools, while few ever returned.

Abelard had the advantage of being well-born; not so highly descended as Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas who were to complete his work in the thirteenth century, but, like Bernard, a gentleman born and bred. He was the eldest son of Berenger, Sieur du Pallet, a chateau in Brittany, south of the Loire, on the edge of Poitou. His name was Pierre du Pallet, although, for some unknown reason, he called himself Pierre Abailard, or Abeillard, or Esbaillart, or Beylard; for the spelling was never fixed. He was born in 1079, and when, in 1096, the young men of his rank were rushing off to the first crusade, Pierre, a boy of seventeen, threw himself with equal zeal into the study of science, and, giving up his inheritance or birthright, at last came to Paris to seize a position in the schools. The year is supposed to have been 1100.

The Paris of Abelard’s time was astonishingly old; so old that hardly a stone of it can be now pointed out. Even the oldest of the buildings still standing in that quarter–Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, Saint-Severin, and the tower of the Lycee Henri IV–are more modern; only the old Roman Thermae, now part of the Musee de Cluny, within the walls, and the Abbey Tower of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, outside, in the fields, were standing in the year 1100. Politically, Paris was a small provincial town before the reign of Louis-le-Gros (1108- 37), who cleared its gates of its nearest enemies; but as a school, Paris was even then easily first. Students crowded into it by thousands, till the town is said to have contained more students than citizens, Modern Paris seems to have begun as a university town before it had a university. Students flocked to it from great distances, encouraged and supported by charity, and stimulated by privileges, until they took entire possession of what is still called the Latin Quarter from the barbarous Latin they chattered; and a town more riotous, drunken, and vicious than it became, in the course of time, hardly existed even in the Middle Ages. In 1100, when enthusiasm was fresh and faith in science was strong, the great mass of students came there to study, and, having no regular university organization or buildings, they thronged the cloister of Notre Dame–not our Notre Dame, which dates only from 1163, but the old Romanesque cathedral which stood on the same spot–and there they listened, and retained what they could remember, for they were not encouraged to take notes even if they were rich enough to buy notebooks, while manuscripts were far beyond their means. One valuable right the students seem to have had–that of asking questions and even of disputing with the lecturer provided they followed the correct form of dialectics. The lecturer himself was licensed by the Bishop.

Five thousand students are supposed to have swarmed about the cloister of Notre Dame, across the Petit Pont, and up the hill of Sainte-Genevieve; three thousand are said to have paid fees to Abelard in the days of his great vogue and they seem to have attached themselves to their favourite master as a champion to be upheld against the world. Jealousies ran high, and neither scholars nor masters shunned dispute. Indeed, the only science they taught or knew was the art of dispute–dialectics. Rhetoric, grammar, and dialectics were the regular branches of science, and bold students, who were not afraid of dabbling in forbidden fields, extended their studies to mathematics–“exercitium nefarium,” according to Abelard, which he professed to know nothing about but which he studied nevertheless. Abelard, whether pupil or master, never held his tongue if he could help it, for his fortune depended on using it well; but he never used it so well in dialectics or theology as he did, toward the end of his life, in writing a bit of autobiography, so admirably told, so vivid, so vibrating with the curious intensity of his generation, that it needed only to have been written in “Romieu” to be the chief monument of early French prose, as the western portal of Chartres is the chief monument of early French sculpture, and of about the same date. Unfortunately Abelard was a noble scholar, who necessarily wrote and talked Latin, even with Heloise, and, although the Latin was mediaeval, it is not much the better on that account, because, in spite of its quaintness, the naivetes of a young language–the egotism, jealousies, suspicions, boastings, and lamentations of a childlike time–take a false air of outworn Rome and Byzantium, although, underneath, the spirit lives:- –

I arrived at last in Paris where for a long time dialectics had specially flourished under William of Champeaux, rightly reckoned the first of my masters in that branch of study. I stayed some time in his school, but, though well received at first, I soon got to be an annoyance to him because I persisted in refuting certain ideas of his, and because, not being afraid to enter into argument against him, I sometimes got the better. This boldness, too, roused the wrath of those fellowstudents who were classed higher, because I was the youngest and the last comer. This was the beginning of my series of misfortunes which still last; my renown every day increasing, envy was kindled against me in every direction.

This picture of the boy of twenty, harassing the professor, day after day, in his own lecture-room before hundreds of older students, paints Abelard to the life; but one may safely add a few touches that heighten the effect; as that William of Champeaux himself was barely thirty, and that Abelard throughout his career, made use of every social and personal advantage to gain a point, with little scruple either in manner or in sophistry. One may easily imagine the scene. Teachers are always much the same. Pupils and students differ only in degrees of docility. In 1100, both classes began by accepting the foundations of society, as they have to do still; only they then accepted laws of the Church and Aristotle, while now they accept laws of the legislature and of energy. In 1100, the students took for granted that, with the help of Aristotle and syllogisms, they could build out the Church intellectually, as the architects, with the help of the pointed arch, were soon to enlarge it architecturally. They never doubted the certainty of their method. To them words had fixed values, like numbers, and syllogisms were hewn stones that needed only to be set in place, in order to reach any height or support any weight. Every sentence was made to take the form of a syllogism. One must have been educated in a Jesuit or Dominican school in order to frame these syllogisms correctly, but merely by way of illustration one may timidly suggest how the phrases sounded in their simplest form. For example, Plato or other equally good authority deemed substance as that which stands underneath phenomena; the most universal of universals, the ultimate, the highest in order of generalization. The ultimate essence or substance is indivisible; God is substance; God is indivisible. The divine substance is incapable of alteration or accident; all other substance is liable to alteration or accident; therefore, the divine substance differs from all other substance. A substance is a universal; as for example, Humanity, or the Human, is a universal and indivisible; the Man Socrates, for instance, is not a universal, but an individual; therefore, the substance Humanity, being indivisible, must exist entire and undivided in Socrates.

The form of logic most fascinating to youthful minds, as well as to some minds that are only too acute, is the reductio ad absurdum; the forcing an opponent into an absurd alternative or admission; and the syllogism lent itself happily to this use. Socrates abused the weapon and Abelard was the first French master of the art; but neither State nor Church likes to be reduced to an absurdity, and, on the whole, both Socrates and Abelard fared ill in the result. Even now, one had best be civil toward the idols of the forum. Abelard would find most of his old problems sensitive to his touch to-day. Time has settled few or none of the essential points of dispute. Science hesitates, more visibly than the Church ever did, to decide once for all whether unity or diversity is ultimate law; whether order or chaos is the governing rule of the universe, if universe there is; whether anything, except phenomena, exists. Even in matters more vital to society, one dares not speak too loud. Why, and for what, and to whom, is man a responsible agent? Every jury and judge, every lawyer and doctor, every legislator and clergyman has his own views, and the law constantly varies. Every nation may have a different system. One court may hang and another may acquit for the same crime, on the same day; and science only repeats what the Church said to Abelard, that where we know so little, we had better hold our tongues.

According to the latest authorities, the doctrine of universals which convulsed the schools of the twelfth century has never received an adequate answer. What is a species? what is a genus or a family or an order? More or less convenient terms of classification, about which the twelfth century cared very little, while it cared deeply about the essence of classes! Science has become too complex to affirm the existence of universal truths, but it strives for nothing else, and disputes the problem, within its own limits, almost as earnestly as in the twelfth century, when the whole field of human and superhuman activity was shut between these barriers of substance, universals, and particulars. Little has changed except the vocabulary and the method. The schools knew that their society hung for life on the demonstration that God, the ultimate universal, was a reality, out of which all other universal truths or realities sprang. Truth was a real thing, outside of human experience. The schools of Paris talked and thought of nothing else. John of Salisbury, who attended Abelard’s lectures about 1136, and became Bishop of Chartres in 1176, seems to have been more surprised than we need be at the intensity of the emotion. “One never gets away from this question,” he said. “From whatever point a discussion starts, it is always led back and attached to that. It is the madness of Rufus about Naevia; ‘He thinks of nothing else; talks of nothing else, and if Naevia did not exist, Rufus would be dumb.'”

Abelard began it. After his first visit to Paris in 1100, he seems to have passed several years elsewhere, while Guillaume de Champeaux in 1108, retired from the school in the cloister of Notre Dame, and, taking orders, established a class in a chapel near by, afterwards famous as the Abbaye-de-Saint-Victor. The Jardin des Plantes and the Gare d’Orleans now cover the ground where the Abbey stood, on the banks of the Seine outside the Latin Quarter, and not a trace is left of its site; but there William continued his course in dialectics, until suddenly Abelard reappeared among his scholars, and resumed his old attacks. This time Abelard could hardly call himself a student. He was thirty years old, and long since had been himself a teacher; he had attended William’s course on dialectics nearly ten years before, and was past master in the art; he had nothing to learn from William in theology, for neither William nor he was yet a theologist by profession. If Abelard went back to school, it was certainly not to learn; but indeed, he himself made little or no pretence of it, and told with childlike candour not only why he went, but also how brilliantly he succeeded in his object:–

I returned to study rhetoric in his school. Among other controversial battles, I succeeded, by the most irrefutable argument, in making him change, or rather ruin his doctrine of universals. His doctrine consisted in affirming the perfect identity of the essence in every individual of the same species, so that according to him there was no difference in the essence but only in the infinite variety of accidents. He then came to amend his doctrine so as to affirm, not the identity any longer, but the absence of distinction–the want of difference–in the essence. And as this question of universals had always been one of the most important questions of dialectics–so important that Porphyry, touching on it in his Preliminaries, did not dare to take the responsibility of cutting the knot, but said, “It is a very grave point,”–Champeaux, who was obliged to modify his idea and then renounce it, saw his course fall into such discredit that they hardly let him make his dialectical lectures, as though dialectics consisted entirely in the question of universals.

Why was this point so “very grave”? Not because it was mere dialectics! The only part of the story that seems grave today is the part that Abelard left out; the part which Saint Bernard, thirty years later put in, on behalf of William. We should be more credulous than twelfth-century monks, if we believed, on Abelard’s word in 1135, that in 1110 he had driven out of the schools the most accomplished dialectician of the age by an objection so familiar that no other dialectician was ever silenced by it–whatever may have been the case with theologians–and so obvious that it could not have troubled a scholar of fifteen. William stated a settled doctrine as old as Plato; Abelard interposed an objection as old as Aristotle. Probably Plato and Aristotle had received the question and answer from philosophers ten-thousand years older than themselves. Certainly the whole of philosophy has always been involved in the dispute.

The subject is as amusing as a comedy; so amusing that ten minutes may be well given to playing the scene between William and Abelard, not as it happened, but in a form nearer our ignorance, with liberty to invent arguments for William, and analogies–which are figures intended to serve as fatal weapons if they succeed, and as innocent toys if they fail–such as he never imagined; while Abelard can respond with his true rejoinder, fatal in a different sense. For the chief analogy, the notes of music would serve, or the colours of the solar spectrum, or an energy, such as gravity–but the best is geometrical, because Euclid was as scholastic as William of Champeaux himself, and his axioms are even more familiar to the schoolboy of the twentieth, than to the schoolman of the twelfth century.

In these scholastic tournaments the two champions started from opposite points–one, from the ultimate substance, God–the universal, the ideal, the type–the other from the individual, Socrates, the concrete, the observed fact of experience, the object of sensual perception. The first champion–William in this instance- -assumed that the universal was a real thing; and for that reason he was called a realist. His opponent–Abelard–held that the universal was only nominally real; and on that account he was called a nominalist. Truth, virtue, humanity, exist as units and realities, said William. Truth, replied Abelard, is only the sum of all possible facts that are true, as humanity is the sum of all actual human beings. The ideal bed is a form, made by God, said Plato. The ideal bed is a name, imagined by ourselves, said Aristotle. “I start from the universe,” said William. “I start from the atom,” said Abelard; and, once having started, they necessarily came into collision at some point between the two.

William of Champeaux, lecturing on dialectics or logic, comes to the question of universals, which he says, are substances. Starting from the highest substance, God, all being descends through created substances by stages, until it reaches the substance animality, from which it descends to the substance humanity: and humanity being, like other essences or substances, indivisible, passes wholly into each individual, becoming Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, much as the divine substance exists wholly and undivided in each member of the Trinity.

Here Abelard interrupts. The divine substance, he says, operates by laws of its own, and cannot be used for comparison. In treating of human substance, one is bound by human limitations. If the whole of humanity is in Socrates, it is wholly absorbed by Socrates, and cannot be at the same time in Plato, or elsewhere. Following his favourite reductio ad absurdum, Abelard turns the idea round, and infers from it that, since Socrates carries all humanity in him, he carries Plato, too; and both must be in the same place, though Socrates is at Athens and Plato in Rome.

The objection is familiar to William, who replies by another commonplace:–

“Mr. Abelard, might I, without offence, ask you a simple matter? Can you give me Euclid’s definition of a point?”

“If I remember right it is, ‘illud cujus nulla pars est’; that which has no parts.”

“Has it existence?”

“Only in our minds.”

“Not, then, in God?”

“All necessary truths exist first in God. If the point is a necessary truth, it exists first there.”

“Then might I ask you for Euclid’s definition of the line?”

“The line is that which has only extension; ‘Linea vocatur illa quae solam longitudinem habet.'” “Can you conceive an infinite straight line?”

“Only as a line which has no end, like the point extended.”

“Supposing we imagine a straight line, like opposite rays of the sun, proceeding in opposite directions to infinity–is it real?”

“It has no reality except in the mind that conceives it.”

“Supposing we divide that line which has no reality into two parts at its origin in the sun or star, shall we get two infinities?–or shall we say, two halves of the infinite?”

“We conceive of each as partaking the quality of infinity.”

“Now, let us cut out the diameter of the sun; or rather–since this is what our successors in the school will do,–let us take a line of our earth’s longitude which is equally unreal, and measure a degree of this thing which does not exist, and then divide it into equal parts which we will use as a measure or metre. This metre, which is still nothing, as I understand you, is infinitely divisible into points? and the point itself is infinitely small? Therefore we have the finite partaking the nature of the infinite?”


“One step more, Mr. Abelard, if I do not weary you! Let me take three of these metres which do not exist, and place them so that the ends of one shall touch the ends of the others. May I ask what is that figure?”

“I presume you mean it to be a triangle.”

“Precisely! and what sort of a triangle?”

“An equilateral triangle, the sides of which measure one metre each.”

“Now let me take three more of these metres which do not exist, and construct another triangle which does not exist;–are these two triangles or one triangle?”

“They are most certainly one–a single concept of the only possible equilateral triangle measuring one metre on each face.”

“You told us a moment ago that a universal could not exist wholly and exclusively in two individuals at once. Does not the universal by definition–THE equilateral triangle measuring one metre on each face–does it not exist wholly, in its integrity of essence, in each of the two triangles we have conceived?”

“It does–as a conception.”

“I thank you! Now, although I fear wearying you, perhaps you will consent to let me add matter to mind. I have here on my desk an object not uncommon in nature, which I will ask you to describe.”

“It appears to be a crystal.”

“May I ask its shape?”

“I should call it a regular octahedron.”

“That is, two pyramids, set base to base? making eight plane surfaces, each a perfect equilateral triangle?”

“Concedo triangula (I grant the triangles).”

“Do you know, perchance, what is this material which seems to give substantial existence to these eight triangles?”

“I do not.”

“Nor I! nor does it matter, unless you conceive it to be the work of man?”

“I do not claim it as man’s work.”

“Whose, then?”

“We believe all actual creation of matter, united with form, to be the work of God.”

“Surely not the substance of God himself? Perhaps you mean that this form–this octahedron–is a divine concept.”

“I understand such to be the doctrine of the Church.”

“Then it seems that God uses this concept habitually to create this very common crystal. One question more, and only one, if you will permit me to come to the point. Does the matter–the material–of which this crystal is made affect in any way the form–the nature, the soul–of the universal equilateral triangle as you see it bounding these eight plane surfaces?”

“That I do not know, and do not think essential to decide. As far as these triangles are individual, they are made so by the will of God,