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him, no more than a brave vassal should lament about how often he must fight. Nor will his praise be less. But the hope is that it will be greater. So also will the meed of the wise be greater, the more angry and severer fortune that befalls him. No wise man should desire a soft life, if he careth for any virtues or any worship here from the world, or for eternal life after this world. But every wise man should struggle both against hard fortune and against a pleasant one: lest he should presume upon his good fortune, or despair of his bad one. But it is needful to him that he should find out the middle way between severe and agreeable fortune, that he may not desire a more pleasant one, nor more enjoyment than will be suitable to him; nor again, a severer fortune; for this reason, that he may not suffer any thing unbecoming. But it is in their own power which of these they should choose. If then they will find out this middle path, then shall they themselves moderate their good fortune, and their enjoyments. Then will God mitigate to them all severe fortune, both in this world and that which is to come, so as that they may bear it (1).'"
Alfred now omits all the seventh metre of Boetius but the last three verses and a half (2); and these he enlarges upon into this animated exhortation, which obviously issues from his heart
"Well! O wise men! Well! Go all into the way which the illustrious examples of those good men, and those worthy heroes that were before you, lead you. Oh! ye slothful and idle loiterers, why will ye be so unprofitable and so enervated? Why will ye not ask after the wise and the worthy; such as they were that lived before you? and why will ye not then, after you have inquired into their customs, listen to them the most earnestly you may? For they struggled after worship in this world, and toiled for a good fame by good works, and wrought a good example for those that should be after them. Hence they dwell now above the stars in everlasting blessedness for their good works (3). '
After a discussion that the five most desired things of human life are, wealth, power, worship, fame, and pleasure; and that all these fail to give true happiness, their conversation turns upon what is the supreme good in which this can be obtained. All this part is translated by Alfred with the same spirit and freedom, and vivacity of dialogue, of which we have already given specimens. Alfred, at length, adds of his own :
"That, methinketh, would be the true and perfect felicity, that would give to its followers permanent affluence and eternal power, and perpetual reverence, and everlasting fame, and fulness of joy; "
and asks Wisdom to inform him where this is to be found; who, reminding him that Plato advised us to implore the Divine help in small things as well as in great, proceeds to utter that noble address to the Deity, of which Dr. Johnson has so finely translated
(1) Alfred, 136-138.
(2) There are in Boetius: "Go now, ye brave! where the lofty way of a great example leads you. Why should you, inert, uncover your backs? The earth, when conquered, gives us the stars." Lib. iv. met. 7.
(3) Alfred, p. 138.
the beginning and the conclusion into those beautiful lines already cited.
Parts of this address are very fine in Boetius, but the whole is finer in Alfred; for it is made more natural, more flowing from the heart, and more expanded, both in the feeling and the illustrations. It is a noble specimen of Alfred's lofty and enlarged, and even philosophical theism-the best foundation, and most attractive support of Christianity. He mingles with his devotion all the natural philosophy he possessed. Our ancient king has added to it so much of his own as to make it almost his original composition.
The extent of his additions will be perceived when the reader is told that the passage occupies 28 lines in Boetius (1), and 131 in Alfred:
"O Lord! How great and how wonderful art thou! Thou! that all thy creatures, visible and also invisible, hast wonderfully made, and wisely dost govern. Thou! who the courses of time, from the beginning of the world to the end, hast established in such order, that from Thee they all proceed, and to Thee return. Thou! that all moving creatures stirrest to thy will, while thou Thyself remainest ever tranquil and unchangeable. Hence none exists mightier than Thou art; none like Thee. No necessity has taught Thee to make what thou hast made; but, of Thine own will, and by Thy own power, Thou hast created all things. Yet Thou hast no need of any.
"Most wonderful is the nature of Thy goodness, for it is all one, Thou and Thy goodness. Good comes not from without to Thee; but it is Thine own, and all that we have of good in this world, and that is coming to us from without, proceeds from Thee. Thou hast no envy towards any thing.
Alfred's philosophical address
to the Deity.
66 'None, therefore (2), is more skilful than Thou art. No one is like Thee; because Thou hast conceived and made all good from thine own thought. No man has given Thee a pattern; for none of these things existed before Thee to create any thing or not. But Thou hast created all things very good and very fair; and Thou Thyself art the highest and the fairest good.
"As Thou Thyself didst conceive, so hast Thou made this world; and Thou rulest it as Thou dost will; and Thou distributest Thyself all good as Thou pleasest. Thou hast made all creatures alike, or in some things unlike, but Thou hast named them with one name. Thou hast named them collectively, and called them the World. Yet this single name Thou hast divided into four elements (3). One of these is Earth; another Water; the third,
(1) That the reader may perceive what is Alfred's own, we shall add a version of his original. It begins, "O Thou, who governest the world with continual reason! Author of the earth and heaven! who commandest time to move from eternity, and, stable and enduring thyself, givest all things to be moved! Whom external causes have not impelled to form the work of flowing matter, but the innate form of the supreme good, void of all envy." Boetius, lib. iii. met. 9.
(2) Boetius proceeds: "Thou leadest all things by thy superior example. Fairest of all thyself! Thou bearest the fair world in thy mind, forming it in a resembling image, and commanding the perfect to have perfect parts." Lib. iii. met. 9.
(3) "Thou bindest the elements by numbers, that cold may suit with flame, and
Air; the fourth Fire. To each of these Thou hast established his own separate position; yet each is classed with the other; and so harmoniously bound by Thy commandment, that none of them intrudes on the limits of the other. The cold striveth with the heat, and the wet with the dry. The nature of the earth and water is to be cold. The earth is dry and cold; the water wet and cold. The air then is called either cold or wet, or warm; nor is this a wonder, because it is made in the middle between the dry and the cold earth and the hot fire. The fire is the uppermost of all this world's creations.
"Wonder-like is Thy plan, which Thou hast executed, both that created things should have limits between them, and be also intermingled; the dry and cold earth under the cold and wet water, so that the soft and flowing water should have a floor on the firm earth, because it cannot of itself stand. But the earth preserves it, and absorbs a portion, and by thus imbibing it the ground is watered till it grows and blossoms, and brings forth fruits. But if the water did not thus moisten it, the earth would be dried up and driven away by the wind like dust and ashes.
Nor could any living creature enjoy the earth, or the water, or any earthly thing, for the cold, if Thou didst not a little intermix it with fire. Wonderful the skill with which Thou hast created that the fire should not burn the water and the earth. It is now mingled with both. Nor, again, can the water and the earth entirely extinguish the fire. The water's own country is on the earth, and also in the air, and again, above the sky but the fire's own place is over all the visible creatures of the world; and though it is mingled with all the elements, yet it cannot entirely overcome any of them; because it has not the leave of the Almighty.
"The earth, then, is heavier and thicker than the other elements, because it is lower than any other except the sky. Hence the sky is every day on its exterior; yet it no where more approaches it, but in every place it is equally nigh both above and below.
"Each of the elements that we formerly spoke about has its own station apart, and though each is mingled with the other, so that none of them can exist without the other, yet they are not perceptible within the rest. Thus water and earth are very difficult to be seen, or to be comprehended by unwise men, in fire, and yet they are therewith commingled. So is also the fire in stones and water very difficult to be perceived; but it is there.
"Thou bindest fire with very indissoluble chains, that it may not go to its own station, which is the mightiest fire that exists above us, lest it should abandon the earth, and all other creatures should be destroyed from extreme cold in case it should wholly depart.
"Thou hast most wonderfully and firmly established the earth, so that it halts on no side, and no earthly thing falls from it; but all earth-like things it holds, that they cannot leave it. Nor is it easier to them to fall off downwards than upwards.
"Thou also stirrest the threefold soul in accordant limbs, so that there 1 is no less of that soul in the least finger than in all the body. By this I
the dry with the liquid, lest the purer fire should fly off, or their weight lead the earth to be submerged. Thou connecting the middle soul that moves all things of threefold nature, resolvest it through consonant members. When divided, it assembles motion into two orbs, goes on to return into itself, circles round the profound mind, and turns heaven with a similar impress." Boetius, lib. ii. met. 9.
know that the soul is threefold, because foreign writers say that it hath three natures. One of these natures is, that it desires; another, that it becomes angry; the third, that it is rational. Two of these natures animals possess the same as men one is desire, the other is anger. But man alone has reason, no other creature has it. Hence he hath excelled all earthly creatures in thought and understanding; because reason shall govern both desire and wrath. It is the distinguishing virtue of the soul.
"Thou hast so made the soul that she should always revolve upon herself as all this sky turneth, or as a wheel rolls round, inquiring about her Creator or herself, or about the creatures on the earth. When she inquireth about her Creator she rises above herself; when she searches into herself, then she is within herself; and she becomes below herself when she loves earthly things, and wonders at them.
“Thou, O Lord! wilt grant the soul a dwelling in the heavens (1), and wilt endow it there with worthy gifts, to every one according to their deserts. Thou wilt make it to shine very bright, and yet with brightness very various; some more splendidly, some less bright, as the stars are, each according to his earning.
"Thou, O Lord! gatherest the heaven-like souls, and the earth-like bodies; and Thou minglest them in this world so that they come hither from Thee, and to Thee again from hence aspire. Thou hast filled the earth with animals of various kinds, and then sowed it with different seeds of trees and herbs.
"Grant now, O Lord (2)! to our minds that they may ascend to Thee, from the difficulties of this world; that from the occupations here they may come to Thee. With the opened eyes of our mind may we behold the noble fountain of all good! THOU ART THIS. Give us then a healthy sight to our understanding, that we may fasten it upon Thee. Drive away this mist that now hangs before our mental vision, and enlighten our eyes with Thy light. For Thou art the brightness of the true light. Thou art the soft rest of the just. Thou causest them to see it. Thou art the beginning of all things, and their end. Thou supportest all things without fatigue. Thou art the path and the leader, and the place to which the path conducts us. All men tend to Thee (3)."
One of the most curious parts of Alfred's Boetius sics. is his metaphysical reasoning.
When he comes to the fifth book, he leaves off translating his author, and indulges his own meditations on chance, free will, the Divine prescience, providence, the perceptions of animals; on
(1) Boetius adds: "Thou with like causes convey est souls and inferior life, and adapting the sublime beings to lighter chariots, thou sowest them in heaven and in earth, and by a benign law makest them converging, to be brought back to thee like the flame of a torch." Boetius, lib. iii. met. 9.
(2) This, which is the best part of the metrum of Boetius, is literally thus "Grant my mind, O Father! to ascend to thine august seat. Grant it to survey the source of good; grant it, with the attained light, to fix the visible eyes of its intellect on Thee. Cast off the clouds and weight of this terrestrial mass, and shine on it in thy splendour; for Thou art serenity; Thou art rest to the pious. To behold Thee is our end, O origin, supporter, leader, path, and termination!" Ibid,
(3) Alfred, p. 77-80. May we not say, without exaggeration, that Alfred hạs, improved upon his original ?
the difference betwixt human reason and the understanding of angels; and on the Divine nature.
That an Anglo-Saxon, when his whole nation was so illiterate, and both public and private affairs so disturbed, should attend at all to metaphysical studies, is extraordinary; but that Alfred, the king whose life was so embarrassed by disease and warlike tumult, should have had either leisure or inclination to cultivate them, and should have reasoned upon them with so much concise good sense as the following extracts will show that he did, is not the least surprising circumstance in his character. But a sagacious judgment attended him in every thing that he attempted.
How clearly has Alfred apprehended, and with what congenial enlargement and philosophy of mind has he in his own way stated and condensed the reasoning, more diffused and not so clear, of Boetius, on chance! The sentence in italics is rather implied than expressed, in Boetius (1):
"It is nought when men say any thing happens by chance, because every thing comes from some other things or causes, therefore it has not happened from chance; but if it came not from any thing, then it would have occurred from chance.'
"Then,' said I, 'whence first came the name?' Then quoth he, 'My darling, Aristotle mentioned it in the book that is called Fisica.' Then said I, 'How does he explain it?' He answered, 'Men said formerly, when any thing happened to them unexpectedly, that this was by chance. As if any one should now dig the earth, and find there a treasure of gold, and should then say that this happened by chance. But yet, I know that if the digger had not dug into the earth, and no man before had hidden the gold there, he would by no means have found it. Therefore it was not found by chance (2).' ”
Could any reasoner have put this philosophical doctrine more correctly or concisely?
In the fifth book, we have Alfred's thoughts on the liberty of human actions. They are founded on the suggestions of Boetius (3); but he not only selects from his original what he liked on this subject, and compressed what he found diffused, into a small and expressive compass, but he states it so much in his own manner, to show that he had well considered the subject, and has given us his genuine sentiments upon it.—
"I would ask thee, whether we have any freedom or any on the freedom of power, what we should do, or what we should not do? or does the divine pre-ordination or fate compel us to that which we wish?
"Then said he, 'We have much power. There is no rational creature which has not freedom. He that hath reason may judge and discriminate what he should will, and what he should shun; and every man hath this freedom, that he knows what he should will and what he should not will. Yet all rational creatures have not a like freedom. Angels have right judg
(2) Alfred, p. 139.
(1) Sce Boct. lib. v. prosa 1. (3) In his fifth book.