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Tail-piece from Donne's “ Pseudo-Martyr"
Ruins of Whitby Abbey
The Inscription over King Arthur's Coffin.
A Physician (from the Statues outside the Cloister of
Magdalene College, Oxford)
Initial Letter (from the Mazarin Bible)
Head-Piece to Index (from Leichius “ De Origine
CASSELL'S LIBRARY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE .
URING the First-English at the form it gives to that conception of the highest
time nearly life which is the special concern of Religion.
beneficent lifted to their places; only the stones themselves Creator, to whom, tell us that in a day long past, of which we have no as supremely wise, other record, the people of this island gave their just, and merciful, chief strength to the service of religion. Their
ascribes the bodies perished, their homes passed away, their form Initial from the MS. of Cædmon.
best qualities he can of worship is forgotten, but they left imperishable conceive, and to whose likeness be then seeks to record of a soul of worship that was in them. conform himself; loving and serving all that he Two Epistles to the Corinthians were ascribed to thinks highest in his God, who is the source of Clement, who was called the third bishop of Rome every good, and the helper of all faithful effort to draw after the apostles, and said to have been fellownear to Him. In most men this aspiration is asso- labourer with St. Paul at Philippi. In the first of ciated with belief that the immaterial part, which these, Paul is said to have “travelled even to the yearns to be near God, survives to attain a heaven extreme boundaries of the West." This has been of the happiness it rightly sought. In every age taken to mean that he visited Britain. Jerome, at and country, human nature has been able to conceive the end of the fourth century, said that St. Paul the excellence of God only by ascribing to Him all imitated the sun in going from one ocean to the that man thinks best, and to conceive the happiness other, and that his labours extended to the West. of an attained heaven only by associating it with Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus in the fifth century, human experiences of the highest bliss. Even continuing the tradition, spoke of Paul as having though more be revealed by God himself, man's brought salvation to the islands of the Ocean, and character determines how he shall receive the revela- in his first discourse on Laws included the Britons tion, and we understand a people best when looking among converts of the apostles. There was such a
65- VOL. II.
tradition: and there seems really to have been early station was in the Hebrides, upon the rocky island preaching of Christianity here, if the remote Britain of Iona, which has an area of 1,300 Scotch acres, were not used as a mere figure of rhetoric. Origen, and lies off the south-western extremity of the speaking in the earlier half of the third century, said island of Mull. After him it was called (Ionathat “the power of the Saviour's kingdom reached as Columb-kill) Icolmkill; and the religious community far as Britain, which seemed to be another division of there gathered by him, at first rudely housed, became the world.” Old tradition ascribed to a King Lucius, the head-quarters of religious energy for the converwho died in the year 201, the building of our first sion of North Britain, the missionaries being devout church on the site of St. Martin's at Canterbury. native Celts, gifted with all the bold enthusiasm of Britons are said to have died for the Christian faith; their race, who were in relation rather with the and Alban, said to have been beheaded A.D. 305 near Eastern than the Western Church. the town now named after him St. Alban's, is de- The English settlers in Northumbria were Chrisscribed as the first British martyr. Three British tianised by a Celtic priest, said to have been a son bishops, one being from York and two from London, of Urien, who was educated at Rome, and took were at the first Council of Arles, A.D. 314. Some the name of Paulinus. But he and his fellowof our bishops had come to the remote west as pious missionaries promised temporal advantage to their missionaries, others were Celtic converts. One of converts, and when in the year 633 they suffered a these teachers, Morgan, who translated his name serious defeat in battle, these fiercely cast off their
into Pelagius (meaning "born by the sea-shore"), new creed, and Paulinus fled from them. Then and who was an old man in the year 404, ventured help was asked from the followers of Columba. The on independent speculations that found not a few first man who was sent out from Iona returned followers, and gave for a long time afterwards much hopeless; but they were strenuous workers at Iona, trouble to the orthodox. To combat Pelagianism, who would not accept failure. Another, Aidan, and add to the number of converts from the heathen, took the place of his more faint-hearted brother, and two bishops from Gaul, Germanus and Lupus, came formed in an island on the Northumbrian coast a as successful missionaries into Britain in the year missionary station upon the pattern of that in the 429. Patricius, known as St. Patrick, is said to Hebrides. This was at Lindisfarne, chief of the have been born of a Christian family at Kilpatrick, Farn Islands, named from the Lindi, a rivulet there near Dumbarton, in the year 372, and to have been entering the sea. Lindisfarne is a little more than ordained priest by Germanus before his preaching two miles across from east to west, and scarcely a among the Irish Gaels.
mile and a half from north to south, attached at low There were then scattered among the people of water as a peninsula to the coast, from which it is Ireland and Scotland devoted men of their own about two miles distant. It belongs to Durham, race, known as Culdees, servants and worshippers of although really part of Northumberland, and is God, who were engaged in diffusing Christianity. about nine miles from Berwick-on-Tweed. The Patrick added to the energy of the work done by island is treeless, chiefly covered with sand, rising these men in Ireland. It was an Irish abbot, to a rocky shore on the north and east. The fertile Columba, who in the year 563 passed into Scotland, ground in it is not more than enough for one farm. and from the age of about forty to the age of
Here the Culdees established themselves in such seventy-five worked as a Christian missionary on force that the place came to be called Holy Island, the mainland and in the Hebrides. His chief and from this point they worked effectually for the Her pru
Christianising of the north of England. They fed and, before the Conquest, women also, studied and and comforted the poor, trusting instead of fearing were taught, as Bede says, “the strict observance of the wild men they sought to soften, went up into justice, piety, chastity, and other virtues, and partheir hills to live with them as comrades, and ticularly of peace and love; so that, after the taught religion in a form that blended itself with example of the primitive Church, no person was the spiritual life of man, instead of depending for an outward prosperity on smiles of Fortune. The Culdees prospered in their work, an abbey rose in Lindisfarne, and there was a bishopric established there, which about the year 900, when the Danes ravaged the coast, was removed to Durham.
Aidan died at Lindisfarne in the year 651, and it was he who consecrated the first woman who in Northumbria devoted herself wholly to religious life, and wore the dress of a nun- 1-Heia, who founded the religious house at Herutea. In this she was followed by the abbess Hilda, who is associated with the history of Cadmon's "Paraphrase," the grand religious poem with which our literature opens.
Hilda, daughter of Hereric, nephew to King Æduin, had been one of the converts made by the preaching of Paulinus. Hilda's sister Heresuid, was mother to the king of the East Angles. Hilda went, therefore, into East Anglia, and then designed to follow her sister when she took the religious vow at a monastery in France. But Bishop Aidan summoned Hilda back to the north, and gave her a site
M for a religious house on the north side of the river Wear. There she was called by Bishop Aidan, in
RUINS OF WHITBY ABBEY. the year 650, a year before his death, to be abbess in the religious house founded by Heia at Herutea,
there rich, and none poor, all things being in common now Hartlepool, Heia then going to another place,
to all, and none having any property. probably Tadcaster. Eight years afterwards, when
dence was so great, that not only persons of the Aidan's successor, Finan, was Bishop of Lindisfarne,
middle rank, but even kings and princes, sometimes asked and received her advice. She obliged those who were under her direction to attend so much to the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and to exercise themselves so much in works of justice, that many might very easily be there found fit for ecclesiastical duties, that is, to serve at the altar. In short, we afterwards saw five bishops taken out of that monastery, all of them men of singular merit and sanctity.
Thus this handmaiden of Christ, Abbess Hilda, whom all that knew her called Mother, for her singular piety and grace, was not only an example of good life to those that lived in her
monastery, but gave occasion of salvation and TUDI
amendment to many who lived at a distance, to whom the happy fame was brought of her industry and virtue.” She died in the year 680, after six or seven years of ill-health, at the age of sixty-six, having spent the first half of her life to the age of thirty-three in the secular habit, and devoted the rest wholly to religion.
Cædmon's poem was written in the Whitby monastery during Hilda's rule over it, that is to say, in the time between its foundation, A.D. 658, and her death, A.D. 680. The first buildings on the Whitby cliff were very simple, but in course
of time a more substantial abbey took its place. Hilda left Hartlepool to establish a religious house It was destroyed by the Northmen in the latter half as a new missionary station on the west cliff at of the ninth century, rebuilt, and again destroyed. Whitby, then called Streoneshalh.
Presided over The ruins now upon the site first occupied by Abbess by a woman, its first founder, this was a house Hilda are of a rebuilding in which the oldest part established on the pattern of Iona, in which men is of the twelfth century.