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times here alluded to. The most cruel tyranny, and the grossest superstition, reigned without controul. Men seemed to have lost not only the light of learning, but of their common reason. Duels, divinations, the ordeal, and all the oppressive customs of the feudal laws, were1 universally practised: witchcraft, possessions, revelations, and astrology,* were generally believed. The f dergy were so ignorant, that, in some of the most solemn acts of synods, such words as these are to be found: "As my Lord Bishop cannot write himself, at his request I have subscribed." They were al^the same time so profligate, as to publish Absolutions for any one who had killed his father, mother, sister, or wife; or had committed the most enormous pollutions. On a survey
j * Even so late as the reign of ^drles V. we are informed by Christana, of Pisa, that her father, who was the king's astrologer, foretold his death to a moment in the year 1380. This astrologer was so highly in favour, and esteemed of such importance, as to have a monthly pension of an hundred
•livres 5 a considerable §um for that time.
f They celebrated in many churches, particularly at Rouen, what was called^ the Feast Of The Ass. On this occasion, the Ass, finely drest, was brought before the altar, and they sung before him this elegant anthem, " Eh, eh, eli, Sire Ane! Eh, eh,' eh, Sire Anje I"
vey of these absurd abominations, one is apt to cky out, in the emphatieal words of Lucretius,
i ' '' ''.' .
Quae proeivl a Nobis flectat Fortuna gubernans!
• '•'' :. "• , .
But we may rest secure, if the observation of an
acute writer be true, who says, "Europe will, perhaps, behold ages of a bad taste, but will never again relapse into barbarism. The sole invention of printing has forbidden that event." The only sparks of literature that then remained, were to be found among the Mahometans, and not the Christians. It was from^ie Arabians that we received astronomy, chemistry, medicine, algebra, and arithmetic. Albategni, a Saracen, some of whose manuscripts are now reposited in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, made astronomical observations in the year 880. Our Almanack, Al-manac, is an Arabic word. The great church at Cordova, in Spain, where the Saracens kept a magnificent court, is a monument of their skill in architecture. The game of chess, that admirable effort of the human mind, was by them invented; as were tilts and tournaments. Averroes translated, and commented upon, the greatest part of Aristotle's works,* and was the introducer of that author's philosophy into the f west. It was Gerbert, who, in the reign of Hugh Capet, is said to have introduced into France, the Arabian and Indian cypher: for the Arabians had borrowed from the Indians this manner of computing; and Gerbert learned it from the Saracens when he made a journey into Spain. Gerbert also undertook to make the first clock, the motion of which was regulated by a balance; which method was made use of till the year 1650, when they began to place a pendulum instead of the balance. "£<an it be believed, (says Mr. Henault,) that there ever was so little intercourse between the provinces of France, that an abbot of Clugni, being invited by Bouchard, Count of Paris, to bring his Religious to St. Maurdes-Foss£s, excused himself from making so long a journey,
* I have seen a translation of his Comment on the Poetics, with this title, "Averroys Summa in Aristotelis Poeticam; ex Arabico sermone in Latinum traducta ab Hermano Alemano. Praemittitur Determinatio Ibinrosdin (another Arabian writer) in Poctria Aristotelis. Venetiis, apud Georgium Arrivabenum, 1515."
t Prom Sadi, an Arabian Poet, Milton is said to have taken the grand idea of the bridge over chaos.
ney, into a country Unknown, and to which he was so much a Stranger?" Charlemagne, indeed, two centuries before this last mentioned time, had endeavoured to bring civility and learning into France: he introduced the Gregorian chant; and established a * school in his palace, where the famous Alcuin, whom he invited from England, instructed the youth. Each of the members of this academy took a particular name; and Charlemagne himself, who did it the honour to become one of its members, assumed that of David. This attempt to civilize his barbarous subjects, was as arduous, and worthy his great genius, as his noble project to open a communication between the Ocean and the Euxine by sea, and to join the Rhine to the Danube by a canal.
46. At length Erasmus, that great, injur'd name,
VOL. I. N It
* He is said to have founded the university of Paris. Twyne's Antiq. Acad. Oxon. Apolog. edit. 1608. pag. 158, et tea.
t Ver. 693.
It were to be wished our author had drawn a larger and fuller portrait of this wonderful man, of whom he appears to have been so fond, as to declare in the Letters,* that he had some design of writing his life in Latin. I call Erasmus a wonderful man, not only on account of the variety, and classical purity, of his works, but of that penetration, that strong and acute sense, which enabled him to pierce through the absurdities of the times, and expose them with such poignant ridicule, and attic elegance. A work of humour, and of humour directed to expose the priests, in that age, was indeed a prodigy. The irony of the Encomium on Folly has never been excelled. Erasmus, though a commentator, had taste; and though a Catholic, had chanty. His learning was enlivened with wit; and his orthodoxy was tempered with moderation. He was. never dazzled with what was called Erudition; or misled by that blind and undistinguishing veneration which was naturally paid to the ancients on the first discovery of their writings. By his. Ciceronianus, he repressed the affectation of imitating Tulle's manner of expression in every
* Vol. vii. p. 232.