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A Johanne in Jordane
Lector, lege; à summo Rege
TENANTIUS Fortunatus, an Italian by birth, whose life,
however, was chiefly spent in Gaul, belongs to the latter half of the sixth century. He was born in the district of Treviso, in the year 530, but passed the Alps, a little before the great invasion of the Lombards and the desolation of Northern Italy, and is memorable as one of the last, who, amid the advancing tide of barbarism, retained anything of the old classical culture. A master of vers de société, which he made with a negligent ease, yet not without elegance, he wandered, a highly favoured guest, from castle to cloister in Gaul, repaying the hospitalities which he everywhere received, with neatly-turned compliments in verse. Such was the manner of his life, until Queen Rhadegunda, now separated from her husband Clotaire, persuaded him to attach himself to her person, and, having received ordination, to settle at Poitiers, in the neighbourhood of which she was presiding over a monastic institution that had been founded by herself. Here he remained till his death, which some place in the year 609, having become, during the latter years of his life, bishop of Poitiers.
There is a chapter of singular liveliness in Thierry's Récits des Temps Mérovingiens, Récit 5me, on the character of Fortunatus, and on his relations, which, though intimate, even Thierry does not pretend to consider otherwise than perfectly innocent, and even without scandal, with the Queen. It is impossible to deny that there is some truth in the portraiture of the poet which he draws. Even
Guizot: (Civilisation en France, 18me Leçon,) must be taken to allow it. Yet had Fortunatus been merely that clever, frivolous, self-indulgent and vain character, that Thierry describes, he would scarcely have risen to the height and elevation which, in two or three of his poems, he has certainly attained ;-poems, it is true, which are inconceivably superior to the mass of those out of which they are taken. In Barth's Adversaria there is the same exaggerated estimate of Fortunatus which there is of Prudentius, and with far less in his poetry to justify or excuse it. It would indeed have been otherwise, had he often written as in the lines which follow.
XV. DE CRUCE CHRISTI.
(RUX benedicta nitet, Dominus quâ carne pependit,
Atque cruore suo vulnera nostra lavat. Mitis amore pio pro nobis victima factus,
Traxit ab ore lupi quâ sacer agnus oves. Transfixis palmis ubi mundum à clade redemit, 5
Atque suo clausit funere mortis iter. Hic manus illa fuit clavis confixa cruentis,
Quæ eripuit Paulum crimine, morte Petrum.
XV. Thomasius, Hymnarium, Opp., v. 2, p. 433 ; Daniel, Thes. Hymnol., v. 1, p. 168. — These lines are only the portion of a far longer poem ;-yet have a completeness in themselves which has long caused them to be current in their present shape, till it is almost forgotten that they only form part of a larger whole. 8. Paulum—Petrum] Acts ix. 5; xii. 7. [T. L. P.]
Fertilitate potens, o dulce et nobile lignum,
10 Cujus odore novo defuncta cadavera surgunt,
Et redeunt vitæ qui caruere die.
Luna nec in nocte, sol neque meridie.
Spargis et ornatas flore recente comas. Appensa est vitis inter tua brachia, de quâ
Dulcia sanguineo vina rubore fluunt.
13, 14. Cf. Ps. cxx. 6.
15. secus] The use of secus as a preposition governing an accusative, (here understand loca,) and as equivalent to secundùm, though unknown to classical Latinity, belongs alike to the anterior and the subsequent period of the language, to Cato and to Pliny. And thus we have Ps. i. 3.(Vulg.) words, which doubtless were in the poet's mind when he wrote this line : Et erit tanquam lignum, quod plantatum est secus decursus aquarum, quod fructum suum dabit in tempore suo.
17. vitis] The cross as the tree to which the vine is clinging, and from which its tendrils and fruit depend, is a beautiful weaving in of the image of the true Vine with the fact of the Crucifixion. The blending of one image and another comes perhaps yet more beautifully out, though not with quite such logical coherence, in that which sometimes appears in ancient works of Christian artım namely, Christ set forth as the Lamb round which the branches of a loaded vine are clustering and clinging.
XVI. DE PASSIONE DOMINI.
UISQUIS ades, mediique subis in limina templi,
Siste parum, insontemque tuo pro crimine passum Respice me, me conde animo, me in pectore serva. Ille ego qui, casus hominum miseratus acerbos, Huc veni, pacis promissæ interpres, et ampla 5 Communis culpæ venia : hic clarissima ab alto Reddita lux terris, hic alma salutis imago ; Hic tibi sum requies, via recta, redemptio vera, Vexillumque Dei, signum et memorabile fari. Te propter vitamque tuam sum Virginis alvum Ingressus, sum factus homo, atque horrentia passus Funera, nec requiem terrarum in finibus usquam Inveni, sed ubique minas, et ubique labores.
XVI. Fabricius, Poëtt. Vett, Christ. Opp., Basileæ, 1562, p. 759; Lactantii Opp., Antverpiæ, 1555, p. 589.—This poem, consisting of about eighty lines, of which I have here given something less than half, appears in Fabricius, with the title De Beneficiis suis Christus. It is there ascribed to Lactantius, in most editions of whose works it in like manner appears, with the title De Passione Domini. Although Barth (Advers., 32, 2) maintains the correctness of this its ascription to Lactantius, there cannot be any doubt that it pertains to a somewhat later age. But whoseever it may be, it does, in Bähr's words, (Die Christl. Dichter Rom's, p. 22,) “belong to the more admirable productions of Christian poetry, and in this respect would not be unworthy of Lactantius.' Though abounding too much in elisions, it has something of the true flow of the Latin hexameter, which so few of the Christian poets, or indeed of any of the poets who belonged to the silver age, were able to catch.