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They live, they speak, they breathe what love in
Warm from the soul, and faithful to its fires,
Thou know'st how guiltless first I met thy flame, When Love approach'd me under friendship's
My fancy form'd thee of angelic kind,
absentiæ falso atque inani solatio levant; quanto jucundiores sunt literæ, quæ amici absentis veras notas afferunt! Deo autem gratias, quod hoc saltem modo præsentiam tuam nobis reddere nullâ invidia prohiberis, nullâ difficultate præpediris; nullâ (obsecro) negligentiâ retarderis."
Ver. 63. Those smiling eyes,] Abelard was reputed the most handsome, as well as the most learned man of his time, according to the kind of learning then in vogue. An old chronicle, quoted by Andrew du Chesne, informs us, that scholars flocked to his lectures from all quarters of the Latin world; and his cotemporary, St. Bernard, relates, that he numbered many principal ecclesiastics and cardinals of the court of Rome.-Abelard himself boasts, that when he retired into the country, he was followed by such immense crowds of scholars, that they could get neither lodgings nor provisions sufficient for them: "Ut nec locus hospitiis, nec terra sufficeret alimentis." (Abelardi Opera, p. 19.) He met with the fate of many learned men, to be embroiled in controversy and accused of heresy; for St. Bernard, whose influence and authority were very great, got his opinion of the Trinity condemned, at a council held at Sens, 1140. But the talents of Abelard were
Guiltless I gaz'd; heav'n listen'd while you sung; And truths divine came mended from that tongue. From lips like those, what precept fail'd to move? Too soon they taught me 'twas no sin to love:
not confined to theology, jurisprudence, philosophy, and the thorny paths of scholasticism; he gave proofs of a lively genius by many poetical performances, insomuch that he was reputed to be the author of the famous Romance of the Rose; which, however, was indisputably written by John of Meun, a little city on the banks of the Loire, about four leagues from Orleans; which gave occasion to Marot to exclaim, De Jean de Meun s'enfle le cours de Loire. It was he who continued and finished the Romance of the Rose, which William de Loris had left imperfect forty years before. If chronology did not absolutely contradict the notion of Abelard's being the author of this very celebrated piece, yet are there internal arguments sufficient to confute it. The mistake seems to have flowed from his having given Eloisa the name of Rose, in one of the many sonnets he addressed to her. In this romance there are many severe and satirical strokes on the character of Eloisa, which the pen of Abelard never would have given. In one passage she is introduced speaking with indecency and obscenity; in another, all the vices and bad qualities of women are represented as assembled together in her alone:
Qui les mœurs féminins savoit,
In a very old Epistle-dedicatory, addressed to Philip the Fourth of France, by this same John of Meun, and prefixed to a French translation of Boetius, a very popular book at that time, it appears, that he also translated the Epistles of Abelard to Heloisa, which were in high vogue at the court. He mentions also, that he had translated Vegetius on the Art Military, and a book called the Wonders of Ireland. These works shew us the taste of the age. His words are: 66 T'envoye ores Boece de Consolation, que j'ai translaté en François, jaçoit que bien entendes le Latin."
It is to be regretted that we have no exact picture of the person and beauty of Eloisa. Abelard himself says that she was "Facie non infima." Her extraordinary learning, many circumstances con
Back, through the paths of pleasing sense I ran,
How oft, when press'd to marriage, have I said, Curse on all laws but those which love has made? Love, free as air, at sight of human ties, 75 Spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies.
cur to confirm; particularly one, which is, that the Nuns of the Paraclete are wont to have the office of Whitsunday read to them in Greek, to perpetuate the memory of her understanding that language. The curious may not be displeased to be informed, that the Paraclete was built in the parish of Quincey, upon the little river of Arduzon, near Nogent, upon the Seine. A lady, learned as was Eloisa in that age, who indisputably understood the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew tongues, was a kind of prodigy. Her literature, says Abelard, "in toto regno nominatissimam fecerat ;" and, we may be sure, more thoroughly attached him to her. Bussy Rabutin speaks in high terms of commendation of the purity of Eloisa's Latinity; a judgment worthy a French Count! There is a force, but not an elegance, in her style, which is blemished, as might be expected, by many phrases unknown to the pure ages of the Roman language, and by many Hebraisms, borrowed from the translation of the Bible. Warton,
Ver. 73. How oft,] These extraordinary sentiments are plainly from the Letters: Nihil unquam, Deus scit, in te, nisi te requisivi; te purè, non tua concupiscens. Non matrimonii fœdera, non dotes aliquas expectavi. Et si uxoris nomen sanctius videtur, dulcius mihi semper extitit amicæ vocabulum, aut, si non indigneris, concubinæ vel scorti. Pope has added an injudicious thought about Cupid; mythology is here much out of its place, Warton.
Ver. 74. "And own no laws but those which love ordains." Dryden, Cinyras and Myrrha, Yer 75. "Love will not be confin'd by Maisterie :
Let wealth, let honour, wait the wedded dame,
More fond than mistress, make me that to thee.90
All then is full, possessing and possest,
No craving void left aching in the breast:
Ev'n thought meets thought, ere from the lips it part,
And each warm wish springs mutual from the heart.
Ver. 88. No, make me mistress to the man I love ;] "Deum testem invoco, si me Augustus, universo præsidens mundo, matrimonii honore dignaretur, totumque mihi orbem confirmaret in perpetuo præsidendum, charius mihi, et dignius videretur tua dici meretrix, quam illius imperatrix."Hel. Abelardo, Ep. i.
"When Maisterie comes, the Lord of Love anon
This sure is bliss, if bliss on earth there be,
Alas, how chang'd! what sudden horrors rise! A naked Lover bound and bleeding lies! Where, where was Eloise? her voice, her hand, Her poniard had oppos'd the dire command. Barbarian, stay! that bloody stroke restrain ; The crime was common, common be the pain. I can no more; by shame, by rage suppress'd, 105 Let tears, and burning blushes speak the rest.
Canst thou forget that sad, that solemn day, When victims at yon altar's foot we lay? Canst thou forget what tears that moment fell, When, warm in youth, I bade the world farewell? As with cold lips I kiss'd the sacred veil, The shrines all trembled, and the lamps grew pale: Heav'n scarce believ'd the conquest it survey'd, And Saints with wonder heard the vows I made. Yet then, to those dread altars as I drew, 115 Not on the Cross my eyes were fix'd, but you; Not grace, or zeal, love only was my call, And if I lose thy love, I lose my all.
Ver. 108. Yon altar's] The altar of Paraclete, says Mr. Berrington, did not then exist; they were not professed at the same time or place; one was at Argenteuil, the other at St. Denys.
Ver. 111. As with cold lips] This description of the solemnity of her taking the veil, the prognostics that attended it, her passion intruding itself in the midst of her devotion, Ver. 115; the sudden check to her passion, Ver. 125; need not be pointed out to any reader of sensibility, and lover of true poetry. Warton.