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of learning or as the civilizer of a barbarous nation, he is entitled to our warmest admiration. Such he is in history ; but the romancers represent him as often weak and passionate, the victim of treacherous counsellors, and at the mercy of turbulent barons, on whose prowess he depends for the maintenance of his throne. The historical representation is doubtless the true one. — Bulfinch.
Depend upon it, for one thing, good reader, no age ever seemed the Age of Romance to itself. Charlemagne, let the Poets talk as they will, had his own provocations in the world : what with selling of his poultry and potherbs, what with wanton daughters carrying secretaries through the snow, and, for instance, that hanging of the Saxons over the Weser bridge (thirty thousand of them, they say, at one bout), it seems to me that the Great Charles had his temper ruffled at times. — Carlyle.
Thou [autumn] standest, like imperial Charlemagne,
Above his tomb there was put up a gilded arcade with his image and this superscription: "In this tomb reposeth the body of Charles, great and orthodox emperor, who did gloriously extend the kingdom of the Franks, and did govern it happily for forty-seven years. He died at the age of seventy years, in the year of the Lord 814, in the seventh year of the Indiction, on the 5th of the Kalends of February." — Eginhard.
Was it to disenchant, and to undo,
That we approached the seat of Charlemaine 1
To sweep from many an old romantic strain
That faith which no devotion may renew!
Why does this puny church present to view
Its feeble columns? and that scanty chair!
This sword that one of our weak times might wear.
Amid the torch-lit gloom of Aachen's aisle
A simple stone, where fitly to record
Aubrey De Vere.
The period of Charlemagne is a great date in history; for it is the legal and formal termination of an antiquated state of society. It was also the introduction to another totally different from itself and from its predecessor. It was not barbarism, it was not feudalism; but it was the bridge which united the two. — James White.
In whatever point of view, indeed, we regard the reign of Charlemagne, we always find its leading characteristic to be a desire to overcome barbarism and to advance civilization. We see this conspicuously in his foundation of schools, in his collecting of libraries, in his gathering about him the learned of all countries; in the favor he showed towards the influence of the Church, — for everything, in a word, which seemed likely to operate beneficially upon society in general,, or the individual man. —Guizot.
The great aim and glory of the life of Charlemagne had been the revival of the Empire of Rome in an intimate alliance with the Church of Rome. This was still the dominant idea of his mind at the approach, and in the contemplation, of his death. It was, indeed, an illusion to believe that the world was ripe for such a design. It was perhaps a still greater illusion to suppose that his own children were qualified to accomplish it. — Sir James Stephen.
The appellation of great has been often bestowed, and sometimes deserved; but Charlemagne is the only prince in whose favor the title has been indissolubly blended with the name. That name, with the addition of saint, is inserted in the Roman calendar; and the saint, by a rare felicity, is crowned with the praises of the historians and philosophers of an enlightened age. His real merit is doubtless enhanced by the barbarism of the nation and the times from which he emerged. . . . The dignity of his person, the length of his reign, the prosperity of his arms, the vigor of his government, and the reverence of distant nations, distinguish him from the royal crowd; and Europe dates a new era from his restoration of the Western Empire. That empire was not unworthy of its title; and some of the fairest kingdoms of Europe were the patrimony or conquest of a prince who reigned at the same time in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Hungary. — Gibbon.
The epoch made by Charlemagne in the history of the world, the illustrious families which prided themselves in him as their progenitor, the very legends of romance, which are full of his fabulous exploits, have cast a lustre around his head, and testify the greatness that has embodied itself in his name. . . . Like Alexander, he seemed born for universal innovation: in a life restlessly active, we see him reforming the coinage, and establishing the legal divisions of money; gathering about him the learned of every country; founding schools, and collecting libraries; interfering, but with the tone of a king, in religious controversies; aiming, though prematurely, at the formation of a naval force ; attempting, for the sake of commerce, the magnificent enterprise of uniting the Rhine and the Danube; and meditating to mould the discordant codes of Roman and barbarian laws into a uniform system. The great qualities of Charlemagne were indeed alloyed by the vices of a barbarian and a conqueror. . . . But perhaps his greatest eulogy is written in the disgraces of succeeding times, and the miseries of Europe. He stands alone, like a beacon upon a waste, or a rock in the broad ocean. His sceptre was as the bow of Ulysses, which could not be drawn by a weaker hand. In the dark ages of European history, the reign of Charlemagne affords a solitary resting-place between two long periods of turbulence and ignominy. — Hallam.
If we sum up his designs and his achievements, we find an admirably sound idea and a vain dream, a great success and a great failure. Charlemagne took in hand the work of placing upon a solid foundation the Frankish Christian dominion by stopping, in the north and south, the flood of barbarians and Arabs, — Paganism and Islamism. In that he succeeded: the inundations of Asiatic populations spent their force in vain against the Gallic frontier. Western and Christian Europe was placed, territorially, beyond reach of attacks from the foreigner and infidel. No sovereign, no human being, perhaps, ever rendered greater service to the civilization of the world. Charlemagne formed another conception and made another attempt. Like more than one great barbaric warrior, he admired the Roman Empire that had fallen, its vastness all in one, and its powerful organization under the hand of a single master. He thought he could resuscitate it, durably, through the victory of a new people and a new faith, by the hand of Franks and Christians. With this view he labored to conquer, convert, and govern. He tried to be, at one and the same time, Csesar, Augustus, and Constantine. And for a moment he appeared to have succeeded; but the appearance passed away with himself. The unity of the empire and the absolute power of the emperor were buried in Ms grave. The Christian religion and human liberty set to work to prepare for Europe other governments and other destinies. — Guizot.
The most striking movement of the century is the breaking up of the great empire of Charlemagne, after the death of that monarch in 814.
As the result of this dismemberment we find the empire in the latter part of the century divided into the separate kingdoms of the Western Franks and the Eastern Franks, (from which afterwards arose the kingdoms of France and Germany), Italy, Burgundy, and a border-land of undetermined boundaries between the Eastern and Western Franks, known as Lotharingia. It is from these elements that most of the greater kingdoms of Western Europe have arisen. The name and traditions of the empire were retained, however, by the Eastern Franks, or Germans.
The reign of Charlemagne may be taken as the date of the effectual stimulation of the elements of modern civilization. — Comte.
The corruption of death began to ferment into new forms of life. While the great body, as a whole, was torpid and passive, every separate member began to feel with a sense, and to move with an energy, all its own. Just here, in the most barren and dreary tract of European history, all feudal privileges, all modern nobility, take their source. — Macaulat. v
Now fallen, this great power has lost at once its splendor and the name of empire: the kingdom, lately so well united, is divided into three parts; there is no one who can be looked upon as emperor; instead of a king, we see a knight; instead of a kingdom, a piece of a kingdom. The general good is annulled; each occupies himself with his own interests ; they think of nothing else; God is forgotten. The pastors of the Lord, accustomed to meet, can no longer hold their synods amidst such division. There is no longer any assembly of the people, no longer any laws. — Florus.
The superior genius of Charlemagne, it is true, united all these disjointed and discordant members, and, forming them again into one body, restored to government that degree of activity which distinguishes his reign, and renders the transactions of it objects not only of attention but of admiration, to more enlightened times. But this state of union and vigor, not being natural to the feudal government, was of short duration. Immediately upon his death, the spirit which animated and sustained the vast system which he had established being withdrawn, it broke into pieces. All the calamities which flow from anarchy and discord, returning with additional force afflicted the different kingdoms into which his empire was split. — Robertson.
The empire of Charlemagne was a structure erected in so short a time that it could not be permanent. Under his immediate successor it began to totter, and soon after fell to pieces. The crown of Germany was separated from that of France, and the descendants of Charlemagne established two great monarchies so situated as to give rise to a perpetual rivalship and enmity between them.—Robertson.
A new civilization was not to be improvised by a single mind. When did one man ever civilize a people? In the eighth and ninth centuries there was not even a people to be civilized. The construction of Charles was, of necessity, temporary. — Motley.
Charlemagne restored for a short time the Roman tradition, a universal civil empire, furthered the progress of the papal idea of a universal spiritual empire, closed the era of barbaric invasion, and secured for Christianity and Latin culture their due influence as factors in the more complex civilization which began to appear. The rapid decomposition of his vast empire into small parcels of soil, each with a few inhabitants dependent on the uncontrolled will of a petty tyrant, is apt at first glance to seem a directly and exclusively j-etrograde movement. It was in reality, however, a necessary stage of transition to a higher unity.— Robert Flint.