Sidor som bilder

Shirton, or Cirington, for all these names are mentioned, a Cistercian monk of the twelfth century. In one manuscript they are called proverbs, and given to Hugo de Sancto Victore, of the monastery of Saint Victoire at Paris, and who lived much about the last-named period. There is perhaps no task more difficult than that of ascertaining the real authors of many works of the middle ages, especially where, as in the present instance, there occurs any thing satirical against religious abuses. The evidence with re

celebrated John of Salisbury,

This MS. is in the author's possession, as well as another of the same work with considerable variations. A third is in the library of the Royal Society, No. 292, and there ascribed to Odo de Ceriton. Concerning this person, who was tutor in theology to the see Bale, Script. Brytann. catal. pars ì. p. 221. edit. 1559. Tanner, Bibl. Britannico-Hibernic. p. 560. A great deal of confusion, and yet not more than is often found on similar occasions, has been made concerning this work and its author. It has been confounded with a moral treatise on natural history called Bestiarium, from which it is totally different. If the reader be desirous of perplexing himself with further inquiries concerning this subject, he may consult Fabricius, Bill. med. ætat., i. 93, & v. 466, edit, 1734. Cave, Script. eccles. p. 572. Pitts, p. 245. There is another similar but anonymous work among the Harl. MSS., No. 219, that has some fables not in the others, and wants many in both.

spect to authorship is in favour of the Englishman, because in some of the stories English sentences are found. Nor do the sarcasms against the clergy militate in the least against ecclesiastical manufacture. Numerous instances could be brought to show the satirical spirit of the clergy, frequently towards each other, and generally against the church of Rome.


The work in question is an extraordinary mixture of Æsopian fables with pious and fane histories in great variety. One or two specimens have been already given1, but the reader may not regret the trouble of perusing the following in addition. "There is a kind of wren, named after Saint Martin, with very long and slender legs. This bird sitting one day in a tree, in the fullness of his pride suddenly exclaimed ; It matters not to me though the heavens fall; for with the aid of my strong legs I shall be able to support them.' Presently a leaf fell upon the foolish boaster, who immediately flew away in great terror, exclaiming, O Saint Martin, Saint Martin, help your poor bird!'" The moral compares Saint Peter denying Christ to this wren, which it also assimilates to certain

See vol. i. p. 255, vol. ii. p. 33.

pot-valiant soldiers, who boast, in their cups, that each of them can beat three of the stoutest Frenchmen. Again;-" Isengrin the wolf, to expiate his sins, became a monk. His brethren endeavoured to teach him his letters, that he might say Pater noster; but all that they were able to get from him was, lamb, lamb.' They told him to look up to the cross, but could never make him turn his eyes from the sheep. In like manner do the monks cry out for good wine, and fix their eyes on dainty viands and full trenchers; whence the English proverb, Yf alle that the wolf unto the prest worthe and be sette on to boke salmes to ler, it is ever hys onne eye to the wodeward m" To conclude with one more, "The wolf being dead, the lion assembled the rest of the beasts to celebrate his obsequies. The hare carried the holy water, and the hedge-hogs the wax tapers. The goats tolled the bells; the badger dug the grave; the fox carried the coffin;

m That is, "Though the wolf come to the priest, and be set to his book to learn psalms, yet is one of his eyes ever turned towards the wood." A similar fable is among those composed by Marie de France in the twelfth century. A curate having tained a wolf, undertook to teach him to read. "Now," says he to the scholar, “ repeat after me, The wolf articulated A. "Good," says the curate;


66 now

Berengarius the bear celebrated mass; the ox read the gospels, and the ass the epistles. Mass being finished, and Isengrin duly buried, the beasts partook of a splendid feast, the expense of which was defrayed out of the deceased's property. The parties wished for nothing better than a similar ceremony. So, says the moral, on the death of any rich usurer, the abbots assemble all the beasts of the monastery; for in general, the black and white monks are really brutes, that is, lions in pride; foxes in cunning; hogs in gluttony; goats in luxury; asses in sloth, and hares in cowardice."

Besides the storehouses of this sort of knowledge that have been already described, there were doubtless many others that are now lost; but there is one that ought not to be passed over without some notice. It is the Summa prædicantium of John Bromyard, an English preacher, and a

say B." The wolf cried "bee, bee;" but thinking he heard the bleating of the sheep, away he ran to the fold." This apologue is probably from the East. See the story of

Bohetzad and his ten vixirs in the continuation of the Arabian nights' entertainments. The other seems to have been borrowed from the celebrated and interesting romance of Reynard the Fox, evidently composed long before the twelfth century.

violent opponent of Wicliffe. It is an immense repertory of matter for the use of the clergy, every page containing stories and examples in all possible variety ". It is divided into classes of such subjects as were adapted to the pulpit, and must have been a work of immense labour, and the result of much reading. In the article rapina he has a story resembling chap. viii. of the Gesta Romanorum, which he probably cites under the title of Antiqua gesta.

Although most of these works were undoubtedly composed for the immediate purpose of assisting the preachers, it by no means follows that they were exclusively so, or that other uses might not be made of some of them. Not that they could be accessible to the laity in any great degree, inasmuch as they were wrapped up in a learned language. But the private readings of the monks would not be always of a serious and ascetic nature. They might be disposed occasionally to recreate their minds with subjects of a lighter and more amusing nature; and what could be more innocent or delightful than the stories of the Gesta Romanorum? They might

" Printed at Nuremberg, 1485. Paris, 1500. Basil, sine anno, in folio.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »