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One influence, however, no Christian writer in the West escaped, that of the literary school and the literary tradition From the beginning similarities of style with Fronto and Apuleius appear numerous and distinctly perceptible in Minucius Felix, Tertullian and Zeno of Verona; owing, perhaps, to the fact that all writers, sacred and profane, adopted then the same fashions, particularly imitation of the old Latin writers. To its traditional character also, early Christian Latin literature owes two characteristics more peculiarly its own: From remote antiquity there had existed a moral literature, more exactly a preaching, which brought certain truths within the reach of the masses, and by the character of its audience was compelled to employ certain modes of expression.

On this common ground the Cynic and the Stoic philosophies had met since the third century before Christ. From the still extant remains of Teles and Bion of Borysthenes we can form some idea of this style of preaching. From this source the satire of Horace borrows some of its themes. This Cynico-Stoic morality finds expression also in the Greek of Musonius, Epictetus, and some of Plutarch's treatises, likewise in the Latin of Seneca's letters and opuscula.

Its decidedly oratorical character it owes to the fact that with the beginning of the Christian era rhetoric became the sole form of literary culture and of teaching. This tradition was perpetuated by the Fathers. It furnished them the forms most needed for their work of instruction: Indeed, homily homilia is a technical term of the Cynic and Stoic moralists. And the aforesaid literary tradition not only dominates the method of exposition, but also furnished some of the themes developed, commonplaces of popular morality modified and adapted, but still recognizable.

Without repudiating this indebtedness of Christian literature to pagan literary form, one cannot help seeing in it a double character, oratorical and moral, the peculiar stamp of Roman genius. This explains the constant tone of exhortation which makes most works of ecclesiastical writers so monotonous and tiresome. Exegesis borrows from Greek and Jewish literature the system of allegory, but it lends to these parables a moralizing and edifying turn. Hagiography finds its models in biographies like those of Plutarch, but always accentuates their panegyrical and moral tone.

Some compensation is to be found in the autobiographical writings, the personal letters, memoirs, and confessions. In the "Confessions" of St. Augustine we have a work the value of which is unique in the literature of all time. Although its oratorical methods are chosen with an eye to the character of its public, there is nothing popular in the form of Christian Latin literature, nothing even corresponding to the freedom of the primitive translations of the Bible. In prose, the work of Lucifer of Cagliari stands almost alone, and reveals the aforesaid rhetorical influence almost as much as it does the writer's incorrectness.

The Christian poets might have wandered somewhat more freely from the beaten path; nevertheless, they were content to imitate classical poetry in an age when prosody owing to the changes in pronunciation, had ceased to be a living thing. Juvencus was more typical than Prudentius. The verses of the Christian poets are as artificial as those of good scholars in our own time. Commodianus, out of sheer ignorance, supplies the defects of prosody with the tonic accent. Indeed, a new type of rhythm, based on accent, was about to develop from the new pronunciation; St. Augustine gives an example of it in his "psalmus abecedarius.

It counts among its celebrities some gifted writers and one of the noblest geniuses that humanity has produced, St.

Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Christian Latin Literature

Sixth To Twentieth Century. To present to the reader an account of Latin poetry in a manner at once methodical and clear is not an easy task; a strict adherence to chronology interferes with clearness of treatment, and an arrangement according to the different kinds of poetry would demand a repeated handling of some of the poets. However, the latter method is preferable because it enables us to trace the historical development of this literature. Both in its inception and its subsequent development Latin dramatic poetry displays a peculiar character. Creizenach in the opening sentence of his well-known work on the history of the drama "do the Middle Ages show so complete a suspension of the tradition of classical antiquity as in the drama.

Nowhere do we find evidence that any of his comedies were placed on the stage in schools or elsewhere; for this an adequate conception of classical stagecraft was wanting. The very knowledge of the metres of Terence was lost in the Middle Ages, and, just as the difference between comedy and tragedy was misunderstood, so also the difference between these and other kinds of poetical composition was no longer understood.

It is thus clear why we can speak of imitations of the Roman metre only in rare and completely isolated cases, for example, in the case of the nun Hroswitha of Gandersheim in the tenth century.

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But even she shared the mistaken views of her age concerning the comedies of Terence, having no idea that these works were written for the stage nor indeed any conception of the dramatic art. Her imitations therefore can be regarded only as literary dramas on spiritual subjects, which exercised no influence whatever on the subsequent development of the drama.

Two centuries later we find an example of how Plautus fared at the hands of his poetical imitators. The fact that, like Seneca, Plautus is scarcely ever mentioned among the school-texts of the Middle Ages makes it easier to understand how at the close of the twelfth century Vitalis of Blois came to recast the "Amphitruo" and the "Querulus", a later sequel to the "Aulularia", into satirical epic poems.

That the drama might therefore never have developed in the Middle Ages were it not for the effective stimulus supplied by the ecclesiastical liturgy is quite conceivable. Liturgy began by assuming more solemn forms and finally gave rise to the religious drama which was at first naturally composed in the liturgical Latin language, but subsequently degenerated into a mixture of Latin and the vernacular until it finally assumed an entirely vernacular form.

The origin of the drama may be traced to the so-called Easter celebrations which came into life when the strictly ecclesiastical liturgy as developed into a dramatic scene by the introduction of hymns and sequences in a dialogue form. A further step in the development was reached when narration in John, xx, 4 sqq. This form appears in a Paschal celebration at St. Lambrecht and another at Augsburg, both dating back to the twelfth century. This expansion of the Easter celebration by the introduction of scenes participated in by the Apostles spread from Germany over Holland and Italy, but seems to have found a less sympathetic reception in France.


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The third and final step in the development of the Easter celebrations was the inclusion of the apparition of the risen Christ. Among others a Nuremberg antiphonary of the thirteenth century contains all three scenes, joined together so as to give unity of action, thus possessing the character of a little drama. Of such Paschal celebrations, which still formed a part of the ecclesiastical liturgy, have been already discovered: The taste for dramatic representations, awakened in the people by the Easter celebrations, was fostered by the clergy, and by bringing out the human side of such characters as Pilate, Judas, the Jews, and the soldiers, a true drama was gradually created.

That the Easter plays were originally composed in Latin is proved by numerous still existing examples, such as those of "Benediktbeuren", "Klosterneuburg ", and the "Mystery of Tours"; gradually, however, passages in the vernacular were introduced, and finally this alone was made use of. Passion-plays were first produced in connection with the Easter plays but soon developed into independent dramas, generally in the mother-tongue. As the Easter plays developed from the Easter celebrations, so Christmas plays developed from the ecclesiastical celebrations at Christmas.

In these the preparatory season of Advent also was symbolized in the predictions of the Prophets. Similarly the plays of the Three Kings originated in connection with the Feast of the Epiphany; there the person of Herod and the Massacre of the Innocents are the materials for a very effective drama. It was but natural that all the plays dealing with the Christmas season should be brought together into a connected whole or cycle, beginning with the play of the Shepherds, continuing in that of the Three Kings, and ending with the Massacre of the Innocents.

That this combination of plays actually existed we have abundant manuscript evidence, particularly famous is the Freising cycle. The transition to the so-called eschatological plays — the climax of the history of the Redemption — was easy. Two such plays enjoy a special celebrity, "The Wise and Foolish Virgins", which appeared in France in the twelfth century, and "The Appearance and Disappearance of Antichrist, written by a German poet about The latter, which is also entitled "The Roman Emperor of the German Nation and Antichrist", has also been regarded as an Easter play, because the arrival of Antichrist was expected at Easter.

The second title agrees better with the contents of the play. The poet, who must have been a learned scholar, drew his inspiration from the politico-religious constitution of the Roman Empire as it existed in the golden period of Frederick Barbarossa, and from the Crusades.

This ambitious play with its minute directions for representation is divided into two main actions — the realization of a Christian world empire under the German nation, and the doings of Antichrist and his final overthrow by the Kingdom of Christ. The unity and conception of the two parts is indicated by the fact that the nations appearing in the first part suggest to the spectator what will be their attitude toward Antichrist.

The drama was intended to convey the impression that the German people alone could fulfil the world-wide office of the Roman Empire and that the Church needed such a protector. The extension of the ecclesiastical plays by the introduction of purely worldly elements led gradually to the disappearance of spiritual influence, the decay of which may also be gathered from the gradual adoption of the vernacular for these plays.

While the first bloom of the neo-Latin drama is thus attributable to the influence of the Church, its second era of prosperity was purely secular in character and began with the labours of the so-called Humanists in Italy, who called into life the literary drama. Numerous as they were, we do not meet with a single genuine dramatist among them; still many sporadic attempts at play-writing were made by them. The pagan classics were naturally adopted as model — Seneca for tragedy as is shown b the plays of Mussato, Loschi, or Dati, and especially the "Progne" of Corraro. On the other hand Plautus and Terence found more numerous imitators, whose works did not degenerate into ribaldry, as is seen from the attempts of Poggio, Beccadelli, Bruni, Fidelfo, etc.

These humanistic attempts attained a measure of success in the school drama. A permanent school-stage was erected in Strasburg by the Protestant rector John Stunn, who wished that "all the comedies of Plautus and Terence should be produced if possible, within half a year. The second step in the development was the imitation of the classical drama, which may be traced to Wimpfeling's "Stylpho"; produced for the first time at Heidelberg in , this play was still produced in , a proof of its great popularity.

The contrast between humanistic studies and medieval methods, which does not come into prominence in Wimpfeling's "Stylpho", forms here the main theme. Into the same category falls a comedy by Bebel, demonstrating the superiority of humanistic culture over medieval learning. Into these plays important current events are introduced, such as the war of Charles VII against Naples, the Turkish peril, the political situation after the Battle of Guinegate , etc. Another hybrid class of drama was the allegorical festival plays, which were fitted out as show-pieces after the fashion of the Italian mask comedies.

A brilliant example of this class is the "Ludus Diana" in which Conrad Celtes panagyrizes the pre-eminence of the emperor in the chase. Similar to that of the festival plays was the development of the so-called moralities in the Netherlands schools of rhetoric. These represented the strife between the good and the bad principles virtus et voluptas for the soul of man, e. Side by side with these semi-dramatic plays proceeded the attempts to follow more closely the ancient dramatic form in the school drama with its varied contents.

Reuchlin with his three-act comedy, which treats as subject the wonderful skull of Sergius may be regarded as the real founder of the school drama. With "Henno, his second and still more famous drama, the humanistic comedy became naturalized in Germany. The great master of this art is unquestionably George Macropedius i. A further development led to the religious school drama, which generally drew its subject-matter from Holy Writ. To further his own objects Luther had counselled the dramatization of Biblical subjects, and tales from the Bible were thus by free treatment of the incidents made to mirror the conditions of the time while containing occasional satirical sallies.

This species of drama was cultivated by the Catholics also, who introduced greater variety of subject matter by including lives of the saints. Thus Cornelius Crocus wrote a "St. Joseph in Egypt", Petrus Papeus "[Good? His example was followed by a fair number of imitators: Among the polemical dramatists on the Catholic side Cornelius Laurimanus and Andreas Fabricius must be mentioned. Although the number of the Biblical school dramas was not small, it was far surpassed by the number of the moralities. As has been said, these originated in the Netherlands and it was the Maastricht priest Christian Ischyrius Sterck , who freely adapted the famous English morality "Everyman".

This is the dramatized and widely circulated Ars moriendi and represents the importance of a good preparation for death. The same subject in a somewhat more detailed form is treated by Macropedius in his "Hecastus" The conclusion of the drama is an exposition of justification by faith in the merits of Christ. This inclination of the Catholic poet towards Luther's teaching found great applause among Protestants, and fostered the development of polemico-satirical sectarian plays, as Naogeorgus's "Mercator" shows.

The Catholic standpoint also found its exposition in the moralities, for example in the Miles Christianus" of Laurimanus , the "Euripus" of the Minorite Levin Brecht, the Pornius" of Hannardus Gamerius the "Evangelicus fluctuans" of Andreas Fabricius, who had composed his "Religio patiens" three years earlier in the service of the Counter-Reformation.

Still more bitter now grew the polemics in the dramas, which borrowed their material from contemporary history. The most notorious of this class is the "Pamachius" of the pope hater Thomas Naogeorgus, who found many imitators. Towards the end of the sixteenth century materials derived from ancient popular legends and history first came into greater vogue, and gradually led to the Latin historical drama, of which we find numerous examples at the famous representations given at the Strasburg academy under its founder Sturm. This example found ready imitation, especially wherever the influence of the English comedy-writers had made itself felt.

In this way Latin drama enjoyed a period of prosperity everywhere until the seventeenth century. The best known dramatic poet of the latter half of the sixteenth century was the unfortunate Nicodemus Frischlin. Examples of every kind of school drama may be found among his works: A play of an entirely original character is his Julius redivivus": Cicero and Caesar ascend from the lower world to Germany, and express their wonder at German discoveries gunpowder, printing.

All these attempts at a Latin school drama, in so far as they served educational purposes, were most zealously welcomed in the schools of the regular orders especially those of the Jesuits , and cultivated with great success. Thus the purely external side of the dramatic art developed from the crudest of beginnings to the brilliant settings of the so-called ludi caesarii. With the suppression of the Society of Jesus the school drama came to a rapid end, and no serious attempt has been since made to revive it and restore it to its former position. However from time to time new plays have been produced both in Europe and America, and the "St.

John Damascene", written by Father Harzheim of the Society of Jesus is worthy to take its place among the best productions of the Jesuit dramatists. This division of Latin poetry falls naturally into two classes: The former includes the poems of itinerant scholars and the Humanists, the latter hymnody. The development of vagrant scholars clerici vagi is connected with the foundation of the universities, as students wandered about to visit these newly founded institutions of learning.

From the middle of the twelfth century imperial privileges protected these traveling scholars. The majority intended to devote themselves to theology, but comparatively few reached orders. The remainder found their callings as amanuenses or tutors in noble families, or degenerated into loose-living goliards or into wandering scholars who became a veritable plague during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Proud of their scholarly attainments, they used Latin in their poetical compositions.

Of this two great collections are still extant, the "Benediktbeuren" collection and the so-called Harleian manuscript no. The arrangement of "Carmina burana", as the first publisher, Schmeller, named them, was upon a uniform plan, according to which they were divided into serious comic, and dramatic pieces. Songs celebrate the spring and the winter, in which sentiments of love also find expression, follow one another in great variety. Together with these are pious hymns of enthusiasm for the Crusades or of praise for the Blessed Virgin.

We also find the most riotous drinking-songs, often of a loose, erotic nature, nor are diatribes of a satirical nature wanting: Concerning the composers of this extensive literature nothing can be stated with certainty. The poems were in a certain sense regarded as folk-songs, that is as common property and international in the full sense of the word. Some representative poets are indeed mentioned, e. Particularly famous among the poems is the "Confessio Goliae" which was referred to the Archipoeta, and may be regarded as the prototype of the goliardic songs: The identity of the Archipoeta has been the subject of much investigation, but so far without success.

Paris was an important centre of these itinerant poets, particularly in the time of Abelard , and it was probably thence that they derived the name of goliards, Abelard having been called Golias by St. From Paris their poetry passed to England and Germany, but in Italy it found little favour. At a later period, when the goliardic songs had become known everywhere, the origin of their title appears to have grown obscure, and thus emerged a Bishop Golias — a name referred to the Latin gula — to whom a parody on the Apocalypse and biting satires on the pope were ascribed.

There even appeared poets as filius or puer or discipulus de familia Goliae , and frequent mention is made of a goliardic order with the titles of abbot, prior, etc. Apart from their satirical attitude towards ecclesiastical life, the goliards showed their free and at times heretical views in their parodies of religious hymns, their irreverence in adapting ecclesiastical melodies to secular texts.

In outward form the poetry of the goliards resembled the ecclesiastical sequences, rhyme being combined with an easily sung rhythm and the verses being joined into strophes. Singularly rapid in its development, its decay was no less sudden. The cause of its decline is traceable partly to the conditions of the time and partly to the character of the goliardic poets. In a burlesque edict of the goliards were compared to bats — neither quadrupeds nor birds.

This was indeed a not inapt comparison, for their unfortunate begging rendered them odious to clergy and laity alike. Forgetting their higher educational parts, they found it necessary to ally themselves more and more closely with the strolling players and thus became subject to the ecclesiastical censures repeatedly decreed by synods and councils against these wandering musicians.

Thus, regarded virtually as outlaws, they are heard of no more in France after the thirteenth century, although then are referred to in the synods of Germany until the following century.

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Yet the influence of their poetry on the secular German lyric, and perhaps also on the outer form of religious poetry, was both stimulating and permanent. In this fact lies their principal literary importance and they are valuable as illustrations of the literary culture of the time. Quite distinct in subject and form is the lyric poetry of the humanistic period, the era of the revival of classical learning. The work of a few scattered poets, it could not attain the popularity won by the goliardic poetry, even had its form not been exclusively imitation of ancient classical versification.

From the beginning of the sixteenth century the Catholic humanist, Vida, had been engaged among other works on the composition of odes, elegies, and hymns: Johannes Dantiscus, who died in as Bishop of Ermland, composed thirty religious hymns after the fashion of the older ones in the Breviary, without any trace of classical imitation. Even the renowned Nicolaus Copernicus composed seven odes embodying the beautiful Christian truths associated with Advent and Christmas. From Holland Latin poetry found an entrance also into the Northern Empire under the patronage of Queen Christina, while even Iceland had its representative in the Protestant Bishop Sveinsson , who among other works published a rich collection of poems to the Blessed Virgin in the most varied ancient classical metres.

As in the domain of drama, so also in that of lyrical poetry, Humanism showed itself most fruitful in Germany, particularly in connection with the dissemination of the new doctrine of Luther. The Jesuits were as distinguished for their fruitful activity in the field of lyrical poetry as in the school drama. In addition to Balde q. In the Netherlands, France, Italy, England, Portugal and Spain, their number was not smaller, nor their achievements of less value.

For example the Dutch Hosschius de Hossche, excels both Balde and Sarbiewski in purity of language and smoothness of verse. Simon Rettenbacher , the Benedictine imitator of Balde, whose lyrics show a true poetic gift, also deserves a place among the neo-Latinist writers of odes. The nineteenth century added but one name to the list of Latin lyricists, that of Leo XIII, whose poems evince an intimate knowledge of ancient classical literature.

The other trend of neo-Latinist lyric poetry embraces religious hymnody. The epic forms, as is natural, the largest part of our inheritance of Christian Latin poetry. As a lucid treatment according to any regular division of the subject-matter is difficult, we shall content ourselves with a chronological sketch of it.

The foundation of the Benedictine Order was in every respect an event of prime importance. The Benedictines advanced the interests of culture, not only to supply the needs of life, but also to embellish it. Thus among the earliest companions of St. Benedict we already find a poet, Marcus of Monte Cassino, who in his distich sang the praises of the deceased founder of his order. During the sixth century, while the foundations of a rich literature were being thus laid the culture formerly so flourishing in Northern Africa had almost died out.

The imperial governor, Flavius Cresconius Corippus, and Bishop Verecundus were still regarded as poets of some merit: Among the Visigoths in Spain, however, we find true poets, e. Eugenius II with his version of the Hexaemeron. In Gaul in the sixth century flourished the most celebrated poet of his age, Venantius Fortunatus. Most original is his "Epithalamium" on the marriage of Sigebert I of Austrasia to the Visigothic princess Brunehaut, Christian thought being clothed in ancient mythological forms.

About more or less extensive poems of Venantius are extant, including a "Life of St. Martin" in more than two thousand hexameter verses. Most of his composition are occasional poems. In addition to his well-known hymns "Vexilla regis" and "Pange lingua", his elegies treating of the tragical fate of the family of Radegundis found the greatest appreciation.

About the same period there sprang up in the British Isles a rich harvest of Latin culture One of the most eminent poets is St. Aldhelm, a scion of the royal house of Wessex: The Venerable Bede also cultivated Latin poetry, writing a eulogy of St. Cuthbert in hexameters. Ireland transmitted the true Faith, together with higher culture, to Germany.

The earliest pioneers were Saints Columbanus and Gall: The real apostle of Germany, St.

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Boniface, left behind some hundreds of didactic verses. The seeds sown by this saint flourished and spread under the energetic Charlemagne, who succeeded without neglecting his extensive affairs of state, in making his Court a Round Table of Science and Art, at which Latin was the colloquial speech. The soul of this learned circle was Alcuin, who showed his knowledge of classical antiquity in two great epic poems, the "Life of St.

Willibrord" and the history of his native York. In command of language and skill of versification as well as in the number of poems transmitted to posterity, Theodulf the Goth surpassed all members of the Round Table. Movements similar to that at Charlemagne's Court are observed in the contemporary monastic schools of Fulda, Reichenau, and Saint-Gall.

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It will suffice to mention a few of the chief names from the multitude of poets. Walafrid Strabo's "De visionibus Wettini", containing about hexameters, is justly regarded as the precursor of Dante's "Divine Comedy". His verses on the equestrian statue of Theodoric, "Versus de imagine tetrici", are of literary importance, because he represents the king as a tyrant hating God and man.

Highly interesting also for the art of gardening is his great poem Hortulus", in which he describes the monastery garden with its various herbs, etc. Contemporary with Walafrid and characterized by the same spirit were the poets Ernoldas, Nigellus, Ermenrich, Sedulius Scottus, etc.


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