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Table of contents
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- Sketches of the History of Man, vol. 1 - Online Library of Liberty
- GERMAN AUTHORS.
Graciously returning their salutations, the Duchess walked through the deferential crowd, which fell back on either side, and ordered her chamberlain to distribute some silver coins;--but there was not much time for tarrying. Already the horses which had been secretly sent on before, in the night, stood ready waiting, and when all were in the saddle, Dame Hadwig gave the word of command: "To the holy Gallus.
Benedict and his disciples knew very well on what places to build their monasteries.
Up-hill and down-hill, wherever you find a large building, which like a fortress, commands a whole tract of land, or blocks up the entrance to a valley, or forms the central point of crossing highways, or that lies buried amongst vineyards, famous for their exquisite wines,--there the passing tourist,--until the contrary has been proved to him--may boldly advance the assertion, that the house in question belongs, or rather belonged formerly to the order of St.
Benedict, for in our days monasteries become scarcer and inns, more plentiful, which phenomenon may be ascribed to the progress of civilisation. The Irish saint Gallus, had also chosen a lovely spot, when pining for forest-air he settled down in this Helvetian solitude: In a high mountain-glen, separated by steep hills from the milder shores of the Bodensee, through which many a wild torrent rushed in mad flight, whilst on the other side rose the gigantic rocks of the Alpstein, whose snowcapped peaks disappear in the clouds, there, sheltered by the mountain, the monastery lay cradled at its foot.
It was a strange thing for those apostles of Albion and Erin, to extend their missions unto the German continent, but if one examines the matter closely, their merit in doing so, is not so great as it appears at first sight. They were simply the predecessors and ancestors of the present British tourists, and might be recognized even at a distance by the foreign, curious shape of their knapsacks. Now and then one of them would settle down for good somewhere, although the honest natives of the soil did not always look with favourable eyes on the intruder.
Still their greater pertinacity, the inheritance of all Britons, the art of colonizing and the mystic veneration which all that is foreign, always inspires in the lower classes, made their missionary endeavours rather successful. With other times we have other customs!
In the present day the descendants of those saints are making rail-roads for the Swiss, for good Helvetian money. On the spot near the Steinach where once had stood, the simple cell of the Hibernian hermit, and where he had fought with bears, goblins and water-fairies, a spacious monastery had been built. Above the lower shingle-covered roofs of the dwelling and school-houses, the octagon church-tower rose in all its splendour; granaries, cellars and sheds, abounded also, and even the merry sound of a mill-wheel might be heard, for all the necessaries of life had to be prepared within the precincts of the cloister; so that the monks need not go too far beyond the boundaries, thereby endangering their souls.
A strong wall, with heavy well-barred gates, surrounded the whole; less for ornament than for security, since there was many a powerful knight in those times who did not much heed the last commandment, "do not covet thy neighbours goods. It was past the dinner-hour and a deep calm lay over the valley. The rules of St. Benedict prescribed that at that hour, everybody should seek his couch, and though on that side of the Alps, the terrible heat of an Italian sun which forces one into the arms of Morpheus is never felt, the pious monks nevertheless followed this rule to the letter. Only the guard on the watch-tower stood upright and faithful as ever, near the little chamber-window, waging war with the innumerable flies, buzzing about him.
His name was Romeias, and he was noted for keeping a sharp look out.
Sketches of the History of Man, vol. 1 - Online Library of Liberty
Suddenly he heard the tramp of horses' feet in the neighbouring firwood, to which he listened intently. Finding that some spiders had been weaving their cob-webs in it, he gave it a good rubbing. At that moment the out-riders of the cavalcade became visible on the outskirts of the pine-wood. When Romeias caught sight of them, he first gave a rub to his forehead and then eyed the approaching party with a very puzzled look.
He seized his horn and blew three times into it, with all his might. They were rough, uncouth notes that he produced, from which one might conclude, that neither the muses nor the graces had kindly surrounded the cradle of Romeias, when he first saw the light of this world at Villingen in the Blackforest. Anyone who has often been in a wood, must have observed the life in an ant-hill. There, everything is well organized; each ant attending to its business and perfect harmony reigning in all the bustle and movement.
Now you put your stick into it frightening the foremost ants, and instantly all is wild confusion, and a disorderly running hither and thither ensues. And all this commotion has been brought about by one single movement of your stick.
Now the sounds coming from the horn of Romeias, had just the same disturbing effect in the monastery. The windows of the great hall in the school-house were filled with young inquisitive faces. Many a lovely dream vanished out of the solitary cells, without ever coming to an end, and many a profound meditation of half-awake thinkers as well. The wicked Sindolt who at this hour used to read the forbidden book of Ovid's "art of love," rolled up hastily the parchment leaves and hid them carefully in his straw mattress. The Abbot Cralo jumped up from his chair; stretched his arms heavy with sleep, and then dipping his forefinger into a magnificent silver washing-basin, standing before him on a stone table, wetted his eyes to drive away the drowsiness that was still lingering there.
After this he limped to the open bow-window, but when he beheld who it was that had occasioned all this disturbance, he was as unpleasantly surprised, as if a walnut had dropt on his head, and exclaimed: "St. Benedict save us! He then quickly adjusted his habit, gave a brush to the scanty tuft of hair which his head still boasted of and that grew upwards like a pine-tree in a sandy desert; put on his golden chain with the cloister seal on it, took his abbot's staff made of the wood of an apple-tree adorned with a richly carved handle of ebony, and then descended into the courtyard.
Then the abbot commanded the doorkeeper to ask them what they demanded. Romeias obeyed.
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A bugle now sounded and the chamberlain Spazzo in the capacity of herald, rode up close to the gate, and called out loudly:. Let the gates be opened to receive her. The abbot heaved a deep sigh, then climbed up to Romeias' watch-tower and leaning on his staff, he gave his blessing, to those standing outside and spoke thus:.
Gallus, the most unworthy of his followers returns his thanks for the gracious greeting. But his monastery is no Noah's ark into which every species of living thing, pure and impure, male and female may enter. Therefore, although my heart is filled with regret, to sanction your entrance, is an impossibility. On the last day of judgment, the abbot is held responsible for the souls of those entrusted to him.
The presence of a woman although the noblest in the land and the frivolous speech of the children of this world, would be too great a temptation for those who are bound, to strive first after the kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness. Do not trouble the conscience of the shepherd who anxiously watches over his flock. The canonical laws bar the gate. The gracious Duchess will find at Trojen or Rorshach a house belonging to the monastery, at her entire disposal. Dame Hadwig who had been sitting on horseback impatiently enough hitherto, now struck her white palfrey with her riding-whip, and reining it so as to make it rear and step backwards, called out laughingly:.
In doleful accents, the abbot began: "Woe unto him by whom offence cometh. It were better for him But his warning speech did not come to an end; for Dame Hadwig, entirely changing the tone of her voice, sharply said: "Sir Abbot, the Duchess of Suabia, must see the monastery. Then the much afflicted man perceived that further contradiction could scarcely be offered without damaging the future prospects of the monastery.
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Yet his conscience still urged him to opposition. Whenever a person is in a doubtful position, and is uncertain how to act, it is a great comfort to the vacillating mind, to ask the advice of others; for that expedient lessens the responsibility, and is a solid support to fall back upon. Therefore Sir Cralo now called down: "As you insist so peremptorily, I must put the case first before the assembled brotherhood.
Until then, pray have patience. He walked back through the courtyard, inwardly wishing, that a second great flood might come, and destroy the highway, on which such unwelcome guests had come. His limping gait was hurried and excited, and it is not to be wondered at, if the chronicler reports of him, that he had fluttered up and down the cloister-walk at that critical moment, like a swallow before a thunder-storm.
Five times the little bell of St. Othmar's chapel, near the great church rang out now; calling the brothers to the reading-room. The solitary cross-passages filled quickly with cowl-bearing figures; all going towards the place of assembly, which, opposite the hexagonal chief-building, was a simple grey hall, under the peristyle of which a graceful fountain shed its waters into a metal basin.
On a raised brick-floor, stood the abbot's marble chair; adorned with two roughly carved lions' heads. With a very pleasurable sensation the eye, from under these dark arches and pillars, looked out on the greenness of the little garden in the inner court. Roses and holly-hocks flourished and bloomed in it; for kind nature even smiles on those, who have turned their backs on her.
The white habits and dark-coloured mantles, contrasted well with the stone grey walls, as one after the other, noiselessly entered. A hasty bend of the head was the mutual greeting. Thus they stood in silent expectation, while the morning sun came slanting in through the narrow windows, lighting up their different faces. He, with the shrunk figure, and sharp-featured pale face, bearing the traces of much fasting and many night-vigils, was Notker the stutterer.
A melancholy smile played about his lips. The long practice of asceticism, had removed his spirit from the present. In former times he had composed very beautiful melodies; but now he had taken a more gloomy tendency and at night was constantly challenging demons to fight with him. In the crypt of the holy Gallus he had lately encountered the devil himself and beaten him so heartily that the latter hid himself in a corner, dismally howling.
Envious tongues said, that Notker's melancholy song of " media vita " had also a dark origin; as the Evil One had revealed it to him in lieu of ransom, when he lay ignominiously conquered, on the ground, under Notker's strong foot. Close to him, there smiled a right-honest, and good-natured face, framed in by an iron-grey beard. That was the mighty Tutilo, who loved best to sit before the turning-lathe, and carve exquisitely fine images of ivory.
Some proofs of his skill even now exist, such as the diptychon with the virgin Mary's ascension, and the bear of St. But when his back began to ache, humming an old song, he would leave his work, to go wolf-hunting, or to engage in an honest boxing match, by way of recreation; for he preferred fighting with wicked men, to wrestling with midnight ghosts and often said to his friend Notker: "he who like myself, has imprinted his mark on many a Christian, as well as heathen back, can well afford to do without demons.