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quence probably of his bad success in this
preposterous attempt,” he continued down the close of life to confirm treaties, not by affixing his signature, but by stamping the parchment with his sword-hilt, saying as he did so, “I have sealed this treaty with the pommel of my sword, and I will maintain it with its point."
The means he employed for attaining education illustrated his perfect freedom from all narrow prejudice or jealousy. He felt the necessity of having living teachers both for himself and his subjects. Oral instruction must precede books and prepare the way for them. But France could not furnish such. Whilst the monarch could not write, few of his courtiers could read. Instead, therefore, of allowing national animosities and jealousies to prevent him from seeking help from foreign nations, he invited learned men from every country to which his influence extended, offering them the highest honours and richest rewards he could bestow if they would take up their abode at his court. Among those who accepted this invitation and shared his bounty were English, Goths, Burgundians, Spaniards, Saxons, and Lombards. He even commissioned the ambassadors whom he despatched to the famous Haroun al Raschid, the caliph of Bagdad, to inquire whether there were any persons at that learned court who would accept his hospitality.
Among the scholars of various nations who associated themselves with him, the most influential, and by far the most intellectually gifted
man of his age, was Alcuin, to whom frequent reference has been made in the preceding pages. From the
close connexion between Charlemagne and this illustrious Englishman, some notice of his life and character seems requisite here. In a previous volume of this series, however, (Lives of Eminent Anglo-Saxons,) there is so complete a sketch of his history, that we shall only give the briefest possible outline of his life, and refer our readers to that biography for ampler information.
He was born in the city of York, or in its neighbourhood, * some time in the year 735. The year
of his birth thus coincides with that of the death of the venerable Bede, a man so similar in character and spirit, that, did we believe in the transmigration of souls, we might regard Alcuin but as the avatar, the re-appearance of his illustrious predecessor. He studied at York under Egbert and Aelbert, the scholars, and friends of Bede. Hence, doubtless, much of the similarity between them. Of the affection with which he regarded his teachers, we have a striking proof in the grateful and affectionate mention he makes of them in his poetical record of the bishops and saints of York. Of Aelbert he says:
“ For to him Christ was love,
Meat, drink, yea Christ was all,
every grief remove,
* He has, however, been claimed as a native of Scotland. † “ Cui Christus, amor, potus, cibus, omnia Christus, Vita, fides, sensus, spes, lux, viá, gloria, virtus."
With such a teacher we cannot wonder at the simple faith and ardent love which were so signally displayed in the character of Alcuin. His rich stores of knowledge and clear vigorous intellect were no less remarkable than his piety.
Having been induced to settle in France, he speedily became the most intimate friend and trusted counsellor of Charlemagne. When compelled to separate from one another, as was sometimes the case, from the exigencies of the state, and the inability of Alcuin to travel so fast or so constantly as his imperial master, there seems to have been a constant correspondence maintained between them; Charlemagne writing to his “intellectual prime minister" on almost all matters of difficulty which arose either in government or his studies. The letters which yet reinain show how multifarious were the subjects on which the emperor thought and required information. His questions, indeed, embrace the whole sum of then existing knowledge, -gramma“, geography, astronomy, etymology, music, cronology, etc., etc. Some of the Biblical inquiries which he proposed to " his most beloved teacher in the Lord Jesus Christ,” as he was accustomed to call Alcuin, are very curious and interesting as proving how closely he studied that truth which could inake him “ wise unto salvation." He asks, for instance, why none of the evangelists record the hymn whicli they say the Lord and his disciples sang before they went out into the
garden of Gethsemane ; what was the nature and design of our Lord's transfiguration ; and to who we are to understand the price of mau's redemption was remitted.
The character of the man and the nature of the intercourse between the teacher and the royal scholar will perhaps be best illustrated by the two following
extracts from their correspondence. The first is dated from the abbey of St. Martin, at Tours, to which Alcuin had retired from the fatigues of office and the infirmities of
It was addressed to Charlemagne on his attaining his fifty-eighth birthday. "I long meditated, " he
says, “ what present I could offer you which should be not only not beneath your dignity to accept, but which should also for some real addition to your wealth. For I could not rest satisfied that whilst others were laying costly offerings at your feet I should not present you with anything. At length, by the suggestion of the Holy Ghost, I bethought me of a present both suitable for me to offer and for you to accept? What indeed could be more worthy of you, than the divine books which I herewith send to your majesty, collected together and, to the utmost of my power, freed from inaccuracies? If I could have devised anything better I would have sent it to you with the utmost zeal for the promotion of your glory and prosperity.” What present, indeed, could be more suitable from the subject to the sovereign than the word of God?
The second extract is from a letter in which
Alcuin consoles him for the recent loss of his queen :
“ Our Lord Jesus Christ, our hope, our safety, our consolation, has with his gentle voice commanded all who groan, being burdened, to come to him, saying, “ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' What can be more sweet than this promise? What more blessed than this hope? Let each sorrowing spirit, let each contrite heart, come to him and find shelter in that Divine compassion. Let no one hide his wounds from that Physician who says, 'I kill and I make alive again, I wound and I heal.' How skilfully does our heavenly Father chastise his children that he may sanctify those for whose salvation he did not spare his own Son! Remember, that for thy sake He descended and suffered the things thou hast read in the Gospels, that he may prepare for thee a mansion in his Father's house."
Such correspondence is equally onourable to both parties ; and one knows hot whether most to admire the king who in that barbarous age could invite and prize, or the counsellor who could offer, such advice and consolation.
As Alcuin felt the infirmities of age creep upon him, he longed to retire from the busy world, and to devote the closing years of his life to meditation and prayer. Even in the full vigour of manhood, he had often felt the ceaseless activity required by Charlemagne to be burdensome, and now a profound weariness and dissatisfaction seized him. He repeatedly re