From The History of the Langobards by Paul the Deacon, translated by William Dudley Foulke, LL. D.; The Department of History, University of Pennsylvania; New York: Longman, Green & Co., 1906; pp. 393-414.
PAUL THE DEACON’S POEMS IN HONOR OF ST. BENEDICT.1
(Contained in Book I, Ch. 26, of the foregoing History).
Where, holy Benedict, shall I begin the long tale of thy tri-
Countless thy virtues to tell; where shall thy bard begin?
Father and saint, all hail! Thy name proclaimeth thy virtue,2
Shining light of the world! father and saint all hail!
Nursia,3 praise him well, by such son proudly exalted,
Bringing the stars to the world — Nursia abundantly praise!
O the decorum of boyhood!4 Transcending his years by his
Passing the wisdom of age,5 O the decorum of youth!394
Flower of the garden of heaven, the blossoms of earth despising,6
Prized not the riches of Rome,7 flower of the garden of heaven!
Sadly the governess bore the broken halves of the vessel;
Joyfully, when restored, bore the preceptress the sieve.8
He who is named from the city, ’mid rocks concealeth the
Treasures of piety bears — he who is named from the town.9
Praises resound from the caves, deep hid from the vision of
Known, Christ, only to thee, praises resound from the caves.10395
Frost and the tempest and snow three years thou unwearied
Filled with God’s love thou dost scorn frost and the tempest
Holy devices are pleasing; approved are the tricks of the pious,
Whereby the saint was sustained — holy devices delight.11
“Here is the feast of God’s love,” he signals; the spiteful
one checks him;
None the less faith undismayed signals “The feast is at hand.”12
Duly observes he the festivals who lendeth ear to Christ’s
And when he breaketh his fast, duly observes he the feast.13396
Eager the swineherds bear to the cave the food that is grateful,
Coming with willing hearts, pleasant the food they bear.14
Fire is by fire overcome, with sharp thorns tearing the body,
Flesh is by spirit subdued, fire is by fire overcome.15
Deadly the poison concealed, yet, perceived from afar by the
Brooked not the sign of the cross — deadly the poison con-
Gentle reproving of scourges steadies the wandering spirit,
Gently the blows of the scourge roaming destruction avert.17
Forth from the native rock, flows water in streams never
Waters the hearts that are dry — ever unfailing the stream.18398
Steel from the handle torn, thou seekest the deepest abysses,
Steel, thou desertest the depths, seeking the surface again.19
Bearing the father’s commands, he flees and lives on the waters,
Borne by the waters he runs, bearing the father’s commands.
Prompt to his master’s bidding, the waves to him offered a
While he in ignorance ran, offered the waters a path.
Little lad, thou too art seized by the waves, yet perishest
Truthful witness art thou, little lad ready at hand.20399
Hearts that are faithless groan, spurred on by malignant in-
Flaming with torrents of hell, hears that are faithless groan.21
Beareth the raven with talons obliging the food that is offered;
Bidden, the raven bears far off the terrible food.22
Holy the bosom that mourns for a foe overthrown by destruc-
Holy the bosom that mourns when his disciple exults.23
Seeking the Liris’ sweet places, full splendid the train that
Prompted from heaven thou art, seeking the Liris’ fair site.24400
Serpent accursed! Thou ravest, despoiled of thy grove and thy
Banished the crowd that adored! Curst serpent, how dost
thou rave! 25
Impious sitter! Depart! To the walls let marbles be given!
Thou art constrained by command! Impious sitter depart!26
Greedy the fire that is seen arising in flashes deceitful;
Bright jewel! Not by thy eyes — fire that consumeth is seen.27401
While they are building the wall, the flesh of a brother is
But his preserver is there, while they are building the wall.28
Things that were hid are revealed, the greedy exposed to the
Gifts that are secretly ta’en, quickly to him are revealed.29402
Tyrant cruel and fell! the snares of thy fraud are defeated;30
Tyrant stern! thou receiv’st bridle and curb for thy life!31
Towering walls of Numa — never shall foe overthrow them;
Whirlwinds he says shall destroy Numa’s towering walls.32403
Grievous the foe to chastise thee for offering gifts at the altar;
Gifts to the altars thou bring’st — grievous the foe to chastise.33
It was foreknown that the sheepfolds should be to the heathen
That same heathen race all of the sheepfolds restores. 34
Servant, friend of deceit, thou art tempted by serpent alluring;
Not by the serpent entrapped, servant and friend of deceit.35
Hush! spirit swollen with pride! Be silent! carp not, for he
All things are known to the seer. Hush! spirit swollen with
Famine is driven away by nourishment coming from heaven;
Gloomy hunger of mind also is driven away.37
Bodiless, seen by the sprit, all hearts are amazed at thy
Counseling things thou discern’st — hearts with amazement are
At the command of thy voice they scorn to bridle their gossip,
Forth from the tombs they flee at the command of thy voice.39
They at command of thy voice from the sacred rites are for-
Present they are at these rites at the command of thy voice. 40
Earth from its open breast drives forth the sepulchered body;
Earth when commanded by thee, keeps in her bosom the corpse.41406
Faithless the heart of the dragon that lures the truant to hasten,42
While the treacherous fiend stops his prohibited way.
Deadly the foul distemper that stripped the head of its honor;
At his command it departs — noisome and deadly disease!43
Gold has the holy man none, yet promises all to the needy,
Promises all and draws coins of bright metal from heav’n!44
Thou to be pitied! With skin by the gall of a serpent dis-
Wretched one! Sound and whole, quickly thy skin is restored.45407
Glass is dashed on the rocks and yet they are powerless to
Kept by the rugged rocks, safely the glass is preserved.46
Cellarer, why dost thou fear to offer a drop from the oil flask?
Look! the great jars overflow! Cellarer why dost thou fear?47
Where is the healing for thee, and why is no hope of salvation;
Thou who dost ever destroy, where is the healing for thee?48
Old man worthy of tears! thou fallest by blow of the foeman,
But a blow thou reviv’st — ancient one worthy of tears!49
Barbarous thongs encircle the hands that are guiltless of evil,
Hands that escape of themselves, slipping from barbarous
That proud man on the horse crying with threatening clamor,
Stretched on the ground he lies, arrogant man on the horse!51
Borne on the neck of his sire was the corpse of a child that
Living, the child was borne forth on the neck of his sire.52409
Love conquers all. By a storm the sister prevails o’er her
Sleep from their eyes was driven — love ever conquereth all.
Lovely with innocent charm, the form of a dove flies upward,
Enters the kingdom of heav’n — lovely from innocent charm!54
O thou well fitted for God! To thee the whole world is
Hidden things then dost prove, O thou well fitted for God!
Flaming the sphere that encircles the just man, soaring to
Flaming the sphere that contains him who with love is con-
Thrice called, he is at hand, to be counted a witness of marvels;
Thrice called, he is at hand, dear in the love of the saint.56
Brave leader! warning of wars, thou confirmest our hearts by
Rushing the first to arms! brave leader warning of wars!
Suitable tokens he gave, life’s fellowships gladly forsaking;
Hastening to life in heaven, suitable tokens he gave. 58
Diligent chanter of psalms, to his lute gave he never a respite;
Died with a song on his lips, diligent chanter of psalms!
Held in the same tomb they whose minds were ever united;59
Equal the fame that preserves those whose spirits were one!411
Splendid appeared the pathway and crowded with gleaming
Whereon the holy one rose — splendid the path that was seen.60
Seeking the stony enclosures, it61 found salvation from error,
Shunned all error and sin, seeking the cloisters of stone.
Suppliant for a reward, thy servant has given thee verses,
Powerless, an exile, weak, meagre the verses he gives.
May they be fitting I pray, O guide to the paths celestial,
Benedict, father! I pray, may they be fitting for thee.62
We have also composed in the following manner a hymn in iambic Archilochian meter containing each of the miracles of the same father:
O brothers all, with eager hearts
Come ye, with fitting melody,
Let us enjoy the pure delights
Of this most famous festival.63
Now Father Benedict the guide
Who pointed out the narrow way,
To the bright realms of heaven rose,
Winning rewards for all his toils.
Like a new star he shone, and drove
Away the gloomy clouds of earth.
He from the very dawn of life
Despised the pleasures of the world.
Of mighty power in miracles,
Inspired by breath of the Most High,
He shone in marvels, and foretold
The future happenings of his age.
Since he to many food would bear,
The small bread vessel he repairs;
Sought for himself a narrow cell,
And fires by fires he sternly quenched.
The goblet which the poison bore
He broke by holy sign of cross;
The roaming spirit he constrained
By gentle scourging of the flesh.413
The streams gush forth from out the rocks;
The steel returns from out the depths,
Coursing compliant through the waves;
The boy by the saint’s garb shuns death.64
The hidden poison is revealed;
The bird fulfills the saint’s commands;
Destruction overcomes his foe;
The roaring lion perforce departs.65
The stubborn mass is moved with ease;66
The fire fantastic disappears;
Unto the mangled, health returns;
Sin of the absent stands revealed.
O crafty ruler, thou art caught!
Wicked possessor, thou dost flee!67
Deeds of the future, ye are known!
Heart, thou dost hide68 no secret things!
The buildings are laid out in dreams;69
The earth casts forth the buried corpse;
The wand’rer is by dragon stayed;
The gold coins fall in rain from heaven.414
The glass resists the rugged rocks;
The great jars overflow with oil;
Thy glance releases one in bonds;
Bodies of dead recover life.
The power of such a radiant light
By sister’s prayer is overcome;
And who loves more can better sail
His bark than he who sees the pole.
A splendor through night’s darkness gleamed
To former ages quite unknown,
Wherein a whole globe is beheld,
And upward drawn by flames, a saint.
Amid these wonders, fame he won
With the soft lute, like nectar sweet;
And for his followers he sketched
Fitly the line of holy life.70
To thy disciples, leader strong,
Be present now! we sigh for thee.
Shunning the serpent, we would grow
In virtues following thy steps!
1 The second book of the Dialogues of Gregory the Great elucidate the meaning of these distichs of which some would otherwise be incomprehensible.
2 Benedictus, “blessed.” St. Gregory calls him “Blessed by grace and by name” (Dialogues, Book II, Introduction).
3 The birthplace of St. Benedict in Umbria (id.).
4 He was sent to Rome to study literature and science, but while yet a boy was filled with loathing at the profligacy of his fellow-students (id.).
5 St. Gregory says of him that he bore the heart of an old man from the very time of his boyhood. St. Gregory also says, “Indeed, surpassing his age in his morals, he gave his mind to no pleasure” (id.).
6 This again comes from St. Gregory. “He already despised the world in its bloom as if it were withered” (id.).
7 He left Rome for a hermitage at a boyish age. As. St. Gregory says, “He withdrew therefore, knowingly ignorant and wisely unlearned” (id.).
8 His nurse or governess, who had taught him and brought him up in infancy, followed him from Rome and tended him. To prepare food for him she borrowed from a neighbor an earthen sieve or vessel for cleaning wheat; she broke it and was in great distress, not having the money to replace it. Benedict repaired it by a miracle (Dialogues II, Chapter I). St. Gregory says “But Benedict, the religious and pious boy, when he saw his nurse weeping, filled with pity for her grief, took away both parts of the broken sieve and tearfully betook himself to prayer. When he arose from his prayer he found the vessel whole and sound at his side, so that no trace of the fracture could be found in it, and presently, having kindly consoled his nurse, he returned the sieve to her whole and sound which she had brought to him broken.” (id.).
9 Benedict fled from his nurse and sought the solitude of waste places, whereupon the monk Romanus (whose name is derived from Rome which was pre-eminently “the City”) concealed him in a cave and ministered to his necessities (Dialogues, II, ch. 1).
10 Benedict remained three years in this cave at Sublacus (Subiaco) about forty miles from Rome (id.).
11 “This Romanus,” ays St. Gregory, “lived not far off in a monastery under the rule of father Adeodatus. But he piously stole away his hours from the presence of this same father of his, and carried to Benedict on certain days what bread he could purloin for him to eat. There was no way ideed to his cave from the cell of Romanus, because this cell stood high above the rocks. But Romanus was accustomed to let down the bread from that rock tied by a very long cord on which cord he put a little bell, so that the man of God at the sound of the bell might know when Romanus was offering him bread and go and get it” (id.).
12 “But the ancient enemy,” continues Gregory, “envying the charity of the one and the refreshment of the other, when upon a certain day he beheld Romanus letting down the bread, threw a stone and broke the little bell. Romanus, however, did not cease from providing for St. Benedict in appropriate ways” (id.).
13 After the death of Romanus, God appeared to a certain priest who was making ready a meal for himself for the Easter festival and said, “You are preparing delicacies for yourself while my servant is tormented by hunger.” So the priest sought St. Benedict and found him in his cave; and after prayer and holy conversation the priest said, “Rise, let us take food, for to-day is Easter.” Since Benedict lived far from men he did not know that the Easter festival was on that day, but the priest again affirmed it, saying, “Truly to-day is the day of Easter, of the Resurrection of our Lord. It is not at all fitting for thee to fast and I have been sent for this purpose that we may partake together of the gifts of God Almighty.” Then blessing God, they took food (id.).
14 The neighboring shepherds (or swineherds), discover St. Benedict in his concealment and supply the meagre food required by the hermit (id.).
15 St. Benedict when at Sublacus was tempted by an evil spirit (which came to him in the form of a blackbird) with the recollection of a beautiful woman, whereupon he rushed from his cave and flung himself naked into a thicket of briers and nettles. Thereupon the fiends left him and he was never again beset with the same temptation. St. Gregory says, “Since he burned well without in his penances, he extinguished what was burning unlawfully within” (id. ch. 2).
16 While Benedict was at Sublacus, a neighboring society of monks sent to request that he would place himself at their head. He yielded upon great persuasion and by the strictness of his life and rule filled them with rage, until one of them offered him poison in a cup of wine. Benedict blessed it with the sign of the cross, and the glass vessel in which it was contained was broken as if by a stone. Benedict then returned to his cave (id. ch. 3).
17 In one of the monasteries in the neighborhood, one of the brothers had an aversion to long prayers, and with a wandering disposition went out and busied himself with earthly and transitory things. After he had been admonished by the abbot he was brought to Benedict, who reproved him earnestly. For two days he observed the injunctions of the man of God but on the third day he went back to his old habit and began to wander at the time of prayer. Benedict came to the monastery and noticed that a little black boy was pulling the monk by the border of his garment. “Then he said secretly to Pompeianus the father of the monastery and to Maurus the servant of God — ‘Do you not see who it is that is drawing the monk outside?’ And they answered and said, ‘No.’ And he said to them, ‘We will pray that you also may see whom that monk is following.’ And when they had prayed for two days the monk Maurus saw, but Pompeianus, the father of that monastery could not see. On another day then after prayers, the man of God went forth from the monastery and found the monk standing outside and struck him with a switch for the blindness of his heart and he from that day submitted to no further persuasion from the black boy, but remained immovable in his assiduity in prayer.”
18 Many came to Sublacus to serve God, drawn by the fame of Benedict’s sanctity and miracles. He directed them to construct twelve monasteries in each of which he placed twelve disciples with a superior (ch. 3). On one occasion certain monks came to complain to him that three of the monasteries were in want of water. Benedict by his prayers procured a fountain which gushed forth and flowed down the mountain side (ch. 5).
19 At another time says Gregory, a certain Goth, poor in spirit, came for conversion, whom Benedict the man of God received most willingly. On a certain day indeed he ordered that an iron tool be given to him, which from its likeness to a sickle (falx is called a brush-hook (falcastrum), in order to cut away the briers from a certain place so that a garden should be made there. But the place which the Goth had undertaken to clear lay above the shore of a lake. And when that Goth was cutting away the thicket of thorns with the exertion of all his strength, the iron, springing forth from the handle, fell into the lake where the depth of the water was so great that there was no hope of getting back the tool. * * * Then Benedict the man of God hearing these things went to the lake. He took the handle from the hand of the Goth and cast it into the lake and presently the iron came back from the bottom and went into the handle, and straightway he returned the iron tool to the Goth saying “See, work and do not grieve” (ch.6).
20 These three distichs refer to Maurus and Placidius, two boys who were brought by their fathers, Equitius and Tertullus, to Benedict to be instructed (ch. 3). They became the chief disciples of St. Benedict, and were afterwards canonized. Placidius, while yet a child, in going to draw water, fell into a lake. Benedict, who was praying in his cell, had a revelation of the danger, and sent Maurus in all haste to help him. Maurus rushed to his assistance, and without knowing it, trod the water as if it had been dry land (ch. 7). Benedict attributed this miracle to the obedience of Maurus, but Maurus disclaimed all merit. The boy Placidius as the “truthful witness” now appeared and declared that he had seen the garb of the saint above his head when he was drawn from the water (id.)
21 The wicked priest Florentius, who was filled with jealousy and envy at the superior holiness of the saint, endeavored to blacken his reputation, and at last attempted his life by sending him a poisoned loaf (ch. 8).
22 Benedict, when the poisoned loaf was given him, being aware of the treachery, threw it upon the ground and commanded a tame raven to carry it away and place it beyond the reach of any living creature, which was done (id.)
23 After the attempt was made on his life, the saint departed from Sublacus, but scarcely had he left the place when Maurus, his faithful disciple, sent a messenger to tell him that his enemy Florentius had been crushed by the fall of a gallery of his house. Benedict wept for Florentius, and imposed a penance on Maurus for an expression of triumph at the judgment which had overtaken their enemy (ch. 8).
24 Benedict at last left Sublacus and proceeded to Monte Cassino, a delightful spot, where he afterwards established the parent Benedictine monastery of Italy. At the foot of Monte Cassino flowed the river Liris (ch. 8, Waitz). Paul tells us (l, 26) that two angels in the shape of young men came to Benedict at the cross-roads and pointed out the way, also that he went thither by divine admonition.
25 A temple to Apollo stood in a consecrated grove near the summit of Monte Cassino, where a nest of idolaters still worshipped the god, or, as he was then regarded, the demon. Benedict, who had heard of this abomination, came to the place, preached Christianity, converted the worshipers, broke the statue, threw down the altar, burned the consecrated grove, and built two chapels, one to St. John the Baptist and the other to St. Martin of Tours, on the spot where the god was worshiped. The “old enemy,” as Gregory calls him, did not bear this in silence, but appeared before the blessed father very hideous infuriated, and seemed to rave against him with flaming eyes, first calling him “Benedict” (blessed), and when he would not answer “Maledict” (accursed) (ch. 8).
26 While the monks were building their monastery, a stone lay in the midst of them which they determined to lift into the building, but it was so immovable that it seemed evident that the “old enemy” was sitting upon it. The “man of God” was sent for, and when he had come and prayed and given his benediction, it was “lifted with such speed as if it had no weight before” (ch. 9.).
27 In digging the foundations of Monte Cassino, a bronze idol was discovered, from which issued a supernatural fire that to the brothers seemed as if it would burn up the kitchen. They threw water on it and tried to put it out. When Benedict came, attracted by the tumult, he found that this fire existed only in the eyes of the monks, and was not visible to him. Whereupon he delivered them from the illusion of the fancied fire (ch. 10).
28 One of the monks who was assisting in building the monastery was crushed, and was brought to St. Benedict, who prayed earnestly, restored him, and sent him back to his work safe and sound (ch. 11).
29 It was the custom of the monastery that whenever the monks went out on any business, they should not partake of food and drink away from the convent. One day when they remained later than usual, they took refreshment at the house of a nun, and when they returned and asked the blessing of the saint, he inquired, “Where did you eat?” and they answered, “Nowhere,” and he said to them, “Why do you lie? Did you not enter the dwelling of such a woman? Did you not take this and that food? Did you not drink so many goblets?” and when they saw he knew all they fell trembling at his feet and confessed (ch. 12). Much the same thing occurred to the brother of the monk Valentinian, who came fasting to Benedict, but was tempted to eat on the way by a companion accompanying him to the monastery (ch. 13). Also on one occasion St. Benedict sent one of his disciples to a company of nuns to deliver an exhortation. The nuns begged the monk to accept some handkerchiefs they had made, and he hid them in his bosom. On his return to the monastery Benedict asked, “Why have you suffered iniquity to enter into your bosom?” The monk could not tell what the saint referred to. Benedict added, “Was I not with you with you received the handkerchiefs from the nuns and hid them in your bosom?” The monk fell at the feet of the abbot, repented his foolish act and threw away the handkerchiefs (ch. 19).
30 Totila, king of the Goths, hearing that Benedict possessed the spirit of prophecy, and desiring to prove him, attired Riggo, his armor-bearer, in the royal garments and sent him with an escort to the monastery. Benedict seeing him coming cried out, “Put off, my son, those borrowed trappings; they are not thine own” (ch. 14).
31 Totila thereupon went in person to visit the saint, who chided him for his evil deeds, told him that he would enter Rome, that he would pass across the sea (to Sicily), and would reign nine years, but would die upon the tenth, all of which occurred (ch. 15). Totila was held by the Romans of the Eastern empire to be a usurper, a cruel tyrant, etc. His actual character shines brightly in contrast with that of Justinian, against whom his wars were waged.
32 This prophecy by Benedict was: “Rome shall not be exterminated by the heathen, but, worn out by tempests and whirlwinds and an earthquake, shall decay of itself” (ch. 15). The prediction relates to Totila’s project of capturing Rome. Rome was in fact taken by Totila in 546, retaken by Belisarius in 547, taken again by Totila in 549, and retaken by Narses in 552 (Gibbon, ch. 43). On the occasion of its first capture by Totila he actually demolished, it is said, one-third of the walls, and issued a decree that Rome should be changed into a pasture for cattle, but on the remonstrance of Belisarius he spared the city. Gregory insists that Benedict’s prophecy was fulfilled (ch. 15).
33 A certain priest possessed of a devil was brought to St. Benedict and healed, but was warned never to exercise the duties of his holy office, or he would be again delivered into the power of the devil. After some years, he neglected this warning and undertook again his sacred functions, whereupon the evil again took possession of him, and did not cease to torment him (ch. 16).
34 Benedict predicted that his convent should pass into the hands of the Arian Langobards, by whom (after they had become converted to the Catholic faith) Monte Cassino was restored and the whole Benedictine order was greatly favored (ch. 17, see Waitz’s note).
35 A man of high condition sent St. Benedict two flasks of wine but the servant who carried them stole one and hid it. When he delivered the other at the monastery the saint said to him, “See, my son, that you don’t drink out of the flask you have hidden, but turn it over carefully and you will find what it has inside.” The man did so and a serpent came forth. The servant afterwards became brother “Exhilaratus” (ch. 18).
36 Once when St. Benedict was at supper, a monk who held a lamp in front of the table began silently to reflect in a spirit of pride and to say to himself “Who is this man whom I must attend while he eats and hold his lamp and render him service, and who am I that serve him?” And the saint turned to him at once and began to reproach him earnestly saying, “Cross your heart, brother! What is it you are saying? Cross your heart.” And he called the brothers together and directed that the lamp should be taken from his hands that he should withdraw from this service and sit down quietly. And when the man was asked what he had in his heart, he told them and it was clear to all that nothing could be hidden from St. Benedict (ch. 20).
37 At another time there was a famine in Campania, and wheat was lacking in the monastery so that only five loaves of bread could be found. And when Benedict saw that the monks were troubled, he strove by modest reproofs to remove their weak fears and promised that on the following day they should have an abundance. And indeed on the next day two hundred measures of flour were found in sacks at the gates of the monastery, sent from God Almighty by an unknown hand. When the monks saw this, they gave thanks to the Lord and now learned that even when in want they should not doubt of abundance (Ch. 21).
38 Benedict had been asked to build a monastery near the city of Tarracina, and ending certain disciples of his thither, he appointed over them a father superior and one second in authority, and promised them that on a certain day he would come and show them in what place they should build the chapel, in what place the refectory, etc. They made due preparation to receive him, and in the night preceding the promised day, he appeared to the father superior and to his superintendent in their dreams and told them minutely where they should build everything. Still they looked for him to come, and when he did not, they went to him to make inquiry. And he answered, “Did I not come as I promised?” And they said, “When did you come?” and he replied, “Did I not come to each of you in your dreams and point out to you each of the places? Go and build every building as you heard in your vision.” And hearing these things they wondered greatly and built the dwellings as they had been taught in the dream (Ch. 22).
39 Two certain ladies of a religious sisterhood were given to scandalous talk, and Benedict sent them word that if they did not keep guard over their tongues he would excommunicate them. But they continued in their evil ways and died and were buried in church. Afterwards when mass was celebrated, as the officiating deacon uttered the usual words, “Let those who are excommunicated depart” they were seen to rise from their graves and go out of church (Ch. 23).
40 That is, they rose from their graves at every mass until St. Benedict offered a sacrifice for them, after which they remained in their tomb (id.).
41 A certain novice who loved his parents more than he ought, one day went home from the monastery without a benediction and died, and when he was buried on the following day, his body was found cast forth from the tomb, and he was buried again. This occurred a second time, whereupon they besought St. Benedict in tears that he would deign to bestow his grace upon the body. He gave them the host and told them to place it upon the corpse. When this was done the body remained in the tomb (ch. 24).
42 A certain monk of restless spirit would not remain in the community, and St. Benedict, annoyed and offended by his importunities, ordered him to depart. When he went out of the monastery a dragon with open mouth stood in his way and attempted to devour him, whereupon he called aloud to the monks to run to his assistance. When they did so they could not see the dragon, but they led the monk back to the monastery trembling with fear. He promised never to depart again and kept his promise (ch. 25).
43 A boy had been seized with a leprosy so that his hair fell off and his skin was swollen and he could no longer conceal his diseased humors. He was brought by his father to Benedict and speedily healed.
44 A poor man owed twelve solidi which he was unable to pay and applied in his distress to St. Benedict who said he had not so large a sum, but asked the man to come again in two days. The man returned at the time appointed and thirteen solidi were found on a box in the monastery which was full of grain. St. Benedict gave the whole to the man for his debt and his present needs (ch. 27).
45 Poison was given to a certain man by his enemy in a potion, and although he did not die, his skin changed color so that he resembled a leper. He was brought to St. Benedict who restored him and removed the discoloration (ch. 27).
46 During a time of famine Agapitus, a sub-deacon of Monte Cassino, applied to St. Benedict for oil. There was then in the monastery only a few dregs at the bottom of a glass bottle. Benedict commanded the cellarer to give what there was, but the latter did not obey the order. When St. Benedict heard this he ordered the bottle thrown out of the window upon the rocks, but the bottle was not broken nor the oil spilled (ch. 28).
47 He then assembled the whole house in full chapter and reproved the cellarer and when the chapter broke up, a huge jar which had been empty began to overflow with oil (ch. 29).
48 This probably refers to the “old enemy,” whom St. Benedict met in the shape of a mule doctor with horns and triple foot-fetters (ch. 30).
49 This evil spirit found an old man drawing water, attacked him, threw him upon the ground and tormented him bitterly. When St. Benedict saw him thus cruelly treated, he gave him merely a box on the ear, and straightway drove out the evil spirit so that it did not dare to return to him (ch. 30).
50 A certain Goth named Zalla cruelly tormented a peasant to extort money from him. The peasant said he had given all he possessed to the keeping of St. Benedict, whereupon the Goth bound him with strong cords and made him run in front of his horse to the monastery. They found St. Benedict sitting alone reading, and the Goth in a threatening tone cried out, “Up! up! I say, give this peasant the money you took from him.” St. Benedict glanced at the peasant, whereupon the cords broke and left the man free, and the Goth threw himself at the feet of the saint, besought his prayers, and troubled the peasant no more for the money (ch. 31).
51 This appears to be the same miracle as the preceding distich.
52 A certain peasant brought to the monastery the body of his dead child, and when he found St. Benedict was absent he laid the corpse down at the gate of the monastery and went to look for the saint and when he saw him he began to cry out, “Restore my son! Restore my son!” The man of God paused upon this word saying, “Did I take away your son from you?” and the other answered, “He is dead. Come bring him to life.” Benedict asked, “Why do you impose burdens upon us which we cannot bear?” But the other, whom his great grief overcame, persisted in his petition, swearing that he would not depart unless they restored his son to life. Presently the servant of God asked him saying, “Where is he?” and he answered him, “See, his body lies at the gate of the monastery.” When the man of God came with the brethren, he bent his knees and lay down over the body of the child and lifting himself, held his hands to Heaven saying, “Lord consider not my sins but the faith of this man who asks that his son should be brought to life, and do Thou restore to this little body the soul which Thou hast withdrawn.” Presently he had finished the words of his prayer and the whole body of the child was trembling, and under the eyes of all who were present it appeared to throb with a wonderful tremor and shaking, and presently Benedict held the boy by the hand and gave him, living and whole again, to his father (ch. 32).
53 This refers to Benedict’s sister Scolastica who had devoted herself to a religious life. Benedict used to visit her once a year and on one occasion when they had been conversing until late in the evening, his sister entreated him to remain till morning, but he refused. Scolastica then prayed that heaven would interfere and render it impossible for him to leave her. Immediately a furious tempest came on and Benedict was obliged to delay his departure and they held holy conversation through the night. Gregory explains that the sister’s prayers were in this case of greater power than the brother’s will since she had the greater love. It was a last meeting, as Scolastica died three days afterwards (chs. 33 and 34).
54 As St. Scolastica died, Benedict was praying in his cell, when suddenly her soul appeared to him ascending to heaven in the form of a dove (ch. 34).
55 On the night that St. Germanus died, Benedict opened his casement to look at the starry heavens, and beheld a brilliant light, brighter than at midday, and the whole world collected, as it were, under a single ray of the sun, and the soul of St. Germanus, bishop of Capua, borne by angels to heaven in a sphere of fire (ch. 35).
56 Servandus, a deacon and abbot of a monastery in Campania, was visiting Monte Cassino when Benedict saw the fiery sphere, and was in a room in the tower of the monastery just below that occupied by the saint. When Benedict saw the vision, he called Servandus three times loudly by name, so that the latter might be a witness of the marvelous sight. Servandus came, but saw only a little part of the great light. Benedict sent to Capua and found that Germanus had died at the moment of the vision (ch. 35).
57 Gregory, referring to the establishment by Benedict of the Rule of the Order, says that in this Rule may be found the model of his own life, “because he could not teach otherwise than he lived” (ch. 36).
58 He foretold his own death, and told the absent what sign he would give them when his soul should leave his body. On the day of his death he took the sacrament, and held by the monks, stood with hands lifted to heaven, and breathed his last in prayer (ch. 37).
59 St. Benedict and St. Scolastica were both buried at Monte Cassino. St. Gregory says: “Their bodies were not separated in the sepulcher whose minds were always one in God” (ch. 34).
60 On the day St. Benedict died, two of his disciples at different places saw the same vision, a path spread with draperies and bright with innumerable torches, which began at the cell of St. Benedict and terminated in heaven, and a venerable old man, all glorious, said to them, “By this pathway St. Benedict, beloved of God, ascends to heaven,” so that they knew from the sign what had been predicted (ch. 37).
61 I. e., the pathway.
62 The versification of these so-called elegiac epanaleptical distichs requires that the words composing the first two dactyls and the following long syllable at the beginning of the first line (a dactylic hexameter) shall be repeated at the end of the second line (a dactylic pentameter), thus composing the last half of that line. I have not been able to reproduce this extremely artificial verse in every case, but have kept as near to it as possible. This form of versification appears to have been first used in jest by Martial in the 9th Book of his epigrams, 98, in the verses beginning:
Rumpitur invidia guidam, carissima Juli,
Quod me Roma legit, rumpitur invidia.
Bethmann (p. 278) remarks that it was afterwards employed by Pentadius, Sedulius, Bede and Alcuin, but still later it fell into disuse.
Ebert suggests (Litteratur des Mittelalters, II, 55, note 4) that perhaps the purpose of this poem was to impress upon the memory of the reader a list of the miracles of St. Benedict. A knowledge of each particular miracle seems to have been presupposed.
63 The festival of St. Benedict occurring March 21.
64 When Placidus was saved from drowning in the lake he claimed that he had seen the melote (monk’s garb of skins) of St. Benedict (Dialogues, II, ch. 7; see Du Cange).
65 This probably refers to the heathen worship suppressed by Benedict at Monte Cassino.
66 This refers to the stone which the devil rendered immovable when the monks were building the monastery.
67 Totila departed greatly alarmed at Benedict’s prophecies (ch. 15).
68 Read contegis for contigis.
69 The monastery of Tarracina.
70 He promulgated the famous Rule of the Order, which became the general law of the monks of the Western Empire, and gave to monasticism its definite form (see ch. 36).
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