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SOME in their discourse desire rather commendation of wit, in being able to hold all arguments, than of judgment in discerning what is true : as if it were a praise, to know what might be said, and not what should be thought. Some have certain commonplaces and themes, wherein they are good, and want variety ; which kind of poverty is for the most part tedious, and when it is once perceived ridiculous. The honourablest part of talk is to give the occasion ; and again to moderate and pass to somewhat else ; for then a man leads the dance. It is good in discourse and speech of conversation, to vary and intermingle speech of the present occasion with arguments ; tales with reasons ; asking of questions with telling of opinions; and jest with earnest ; for it is a dull thing to tire, and as we say now, to jade anything too far.
As for jest, there be certain things which ought to be privileged from it ; namely, religion, matters of state, great persons, any man's present business of importance, and any case that deserveth pity. Yet there be some that think their wits have been asleep, except they dart out something that is piquant, and to the quick ; that is a vein which would be bridled. And generally men ought to find the difference between saltness and bitterness. Certainly he that hath a satirical vein, as he maketh others afraid of his wit, so he hath need to be afraid of others' memory.
He that questioneth much shall learn much, and contest much ; but especially if he apply his questions to the skill of the persons whom he asketh ; for he shall give them occasion
l to please themselves in speaking, and himself shall continually gather knowledge. But let his questions not be troublesome, for that is fit for a poser; and let him be sure to leave other men their turns to speak. Nay, if there be any that would reign and take up all the time, let him find means to take
them off, and to bring others on; as musicians use to do with them that dance too long galliards.
Speech of a man's self ought to be seldom and well chosen. I know one was wont to say in scorn, 'He must needs be a wise man, he speaks so much of himself ;' and there is but one case wherein a man may commend himself with good grace, and that is in commending virtue in another ; especially if it be such a virtue whereunto himself pretendeth. Speech of touch towards others should be sparingly used, for discourse ought to be as a field, without coming home to any man. Discretion of speech is more than eloquence ; and to speak agreeably to him with whom we deal, is more than to speak in good words, or in good order. A good continued speech, without a good speech of interlocution, shows slowness; and a good reply or second speech, without a good settled speech, showeth shallowness, and weakness. As we see in beasts, that those that are weakest in the course are yet nimblest in the turn; as it is betwixt the greyhound and the hare. To use too many circumstances ere one come to the matter, is wearisome; to use none at all is blunt.
THE VENERABLE BEDE.
WHILE Mercia was battling in the eighth century for the overlordship of the South, Northumbria had set aside its glory in arms for the pursuits of peace. Under the peaceful reigns of Ecgfrith's successors, their kingdom became, in the middle of the eighth century, the literary centre of the Christian world in Western Europe. No schools were more famous than those of Jarrow and York. The whole learning of the age seemed to be summed up in a Northumbrian scholar. Bæda—the Venerable Bede, as later times styled him —was born about ten years after the Synod of Whitby, beneath the shade of a great abbey which Benedict Biscop was
rearing by the mouth of the Wear. His youth was trained and his long tranquil life was wholly spent in an offshoot of Benedict's house which was founded by his scholar Ceolfrid. Bæda never stirred from Jarrow. 'I spent my whole life in the same monastery,' he says, “and while attentive to the rule of my order and the service of the Church, my constant pleasure lay in learning, or teaching, or writing. The words sketch for us a scholar's life, the more touching in its simplicity that it is the life of the first great English scholar. The quiet grandeur of a life consecrated to knowledge, the tranquil pleasure that lies in learning and teaching and writing, dawned for Englishmen in the story of Bæda. While still young, he became teacher, and six hundred monks, besides strangers that flocked thither for instruction, formed his school of Jarrow.
It is hard to imagine how, among the toils of the schoolmaster and the duties of the monk, Bæda could have found time for the composition of the numerous works that made his name famous in the West. But materials for study had accumulated in Northumbria through the journeys of Wilfrith and Benedict Biscop, and the libraries which were forming at Wearmouth and York. The tradition of the older Irish teachers still lingered to direct the young scholar into that path of Scriptural interpretation to which he chiefly owed his fame. Greek, a rare accomplishment in the West, came to him from the school which the Greek Archbishop Theodore founded beneath the walls of Canterbury. His skill in the ecclesiastical chant was derived from a Roman cantor whom Pope Vitalian sent in the train of Benedict Biscop. Little by little the young scholar thus made himself master of the whole range
of the science of his time ; he became, as Burke rightly styled him, the father of English learning. The tradition of the older classic culture was first revived for England in his quotations of Plato and Aristotle, of Seneca and Cicero, of Lucretius and Ovid. Virgil cast over him the same spell that he cast over Dante ; verses from the Æneid "I am my
break his narratives of martyrdoms, and the disciple ventures on the track of the great master in a little eclogue descriptive of the approach of spring.
His work was done with small aid from others. own secretary,' he writes ; ‘I make my own notes. I am my own librarian.' But forty-five works remained after his death to attest his prodigious industry. In his own eyes and those of his contemporaries the most important among these were the commentaries and homilies upon various books of the Bible, which he had drawn from the writings of the Fathers. But he was far from confining himself to theology. In treatises compiled as text-books for his scholars, Bæda threw together all that the world had then accumulated in astronomy and meteorology, in physics and music, in philosophy, grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic, medicine. But the encyclopædic character of his researches left him in heart a simple Englishman. He loved his own English tongue, he was skilled in English song, his last work was a translation into English of the Gospel of St. John, and almost the last words that broke from his lips were some English rhymes
But the noblest proof of his love of England lies in the work which immortalizes his name. In his Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, Bæda was at once the founder of mediæval history and the first English historian. All that we really know of the century and a half that follows the landing of Augustine, we know from him. Wherever his own personal observation extended, the story is told with admirable detail and force. He is hardly less full or accurate in the portions which he owed to his Kentish friends Alcwine and Nothelm. What he owed to no informant was his own exquisite faculty of story-telling, and yet no story of his own telling is so touching as the story of his death.
Two weeks before the Easter of 735 the old man was seized with an extreme weakness and loss of breath. He still preserved, however, his usual pleasantness and gay good-humour,
and in spite of prolonged sleeplessness continued his lectures to the pupils about him. Verses of his own English tongue broke from time to time from the master's lips-rude rhymes that told how before the 'need-fare,' Death's stern 'must-go,' none can enough bethink him what is to be his doom for good
The tears of Bæda's scholars mingled with his song. “We never read without weeping,' writes one of them. So the days rolled on to Ascension-tide, and still master and pupils toiled at their work, for Bæda longed to bring to an end his version of St. John's Gospel into the English tongue, and his extracts from Bishop Isidore. “I don't want my boys to read a lie,' he answered those who would have him rest, ‘or to work to no purpose, after I am gone.' A few days before Ascension-tide his sickness grew upon him, but he spent the whole day in teaching, only saying cheerfully to his scholars, ‘Learn with what speed you may; I know not how long I may last.'
The dawn broke on another sleepless night, and again the old man called his scholars round him and bade them write. “There is still a chapter wanting,' said the scribe, as the morning drew on, and it is hard for thee to question thyself any longer.' 'It is easily done,' said
. Bæda; “take thy pen and write quickly. Amid tears and farewells the day wore on to eventide. "There is yet one sentence unwritten, dear master,' said the boy. "Write it quickly,' bade the dying man. 'It is finished now,' said the little scribe at last. "You speak truth,' said the master; "all is finished now.' Placed upon the pavement, his head supported in his scholar's arms, his face turned to the spot where he was wont to pray, Bæda chanted the solemn Glory to God. As his voice reached the close of his song, he passed quietly away.
J. R. GREEN.