Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 128.djvu/58

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48

A MONK'S DAILY LIFE.

"Sedesque discretas piorum," "Reserved seats for the pious." ού σθέυω πόσι,

"I do not groan for my husband." "Le mille ronain était de mille pas," "The Roman mile was not a mile."

It is chiefly in translations such as these that the eccentric show their wit. Now and then they are good in composition, as thus, "He complained that he was ill-used," "Questus est se illusum esse." "He swears that this is true," "Damnat hæc vera esse."

Sometimes they are good as catechumens, e.g.: —

Q. "What is a dependent sentence?"

A. "One that hangs on by its clause."

Q. "Derive Pontifex."

A. "From Pons, a bridge, as we say Arch bishop."

The following "character of Gideon" will repay examination. It is curiously ingenious, though very absurd. "Gideon was a true unbelieving Jew. Still he was a good man, though rather idolatrous."

This random collection of scholastic jests shall be concluded with two remarks. One has been made before, viz., that a large majority of these facelitæ are to the writer's knowledge genuine. He believes them all to be so, and has refrained from adding to the list others, the genuineness of which, though perhaps not doubtful, is not within his own personal knowledge. Who shall say, then, that a schoolmaster's life can never be amusing?

Secondly, these jokes lose much of their flavour when thus printed one after another. Think how refreshing to the wearied examiner, sitting up half the night to look over papers, to come now and then across an oasis of this kind in the desert of stupidly correct or stupidly incorrect performances. In form, too, think how much the humour of the thing is enhanced by the innocent, or puzzled, or conceited, or sheepish, or desperate look of the victim as he utters his follies. Think how tickling the inappropriateness, the semi-impropricty, of these utterances in a scene where a certain amount of decorum must be observed, and then consider whether the hours spent by a schoolmaster in school have not their amusing side. He is like some of the books he uses. He combines amusement with instruction.




From Fraser's Magazine.

A MONK'S DAILY LIFE.

We have all some faint poetical, pictorial, or theatrical notion of monks. Ribera at the National Gallery shows us how they prayed with wan faces, half-darkened with the shadowing cowl. Sir Walter Scott has sketched them in a hundred picturesque ways before altars and beside graves. Novelists have given us many a good monk, and checkmated us with many a wicked one. In volume after volume we have had the murderous monk, the robber monk, the hermit monk, the bibulous monk, the felonious monk, and the poisoning monk, and yet, after all, we know very little how monks really lived, or how they spent their hours. We are apt to forget that the duties of monastic life were very varied—that there was scope in the abbey and the priory for intellects of all degrees—that there were as many sorts of employment within a monastery as there are in a modern factory, and that monastic establishments were, as a rule, admirably governed, and conducted in a business-like way.

Let us take, first, the sacristan. It was his duty to provide bread and wine, and wax lights for the high altar and the chantry chapels. He kept a tun of wine at a time in his exchequer, which was sometimes (as in Durham Cathedral) in the aisle of the church. He had to go his rounds daily, see to the great stained glass windows, and inspect the leaden roof; he had also to mind that the bells were sound, and the bell-ropes safe, and he attended the scrubbing and washing of the church. He spent many hours, we may be sure, on roof and tower, and in the dusty belfry among the bells, with none but the whirling martins witness of his peering watchfulness. The sacristan had also the responsible duty of nightly pacing nave and aisle, and locking up the keys of every shrine, which were required to be laid ready for the priests of each altar between seven and eight a.m. Severe punctilious men, no doubt, these sacristans were, with a due sense of the rich jewels and golden plate of the altars they locked up, and never tired of turning their torches or lanterns on dark corners where felons might lurk in ambush for gem-adorned pix or gilded chalice. To the sacristan the bishop, on his installation, always solemnly confided the great keys of the cathedral.

Then there was the chamberlain, sometimes a prebendary, who provided the