Macaronic Verses

“TRUMPETER UNUS ERAT,” ETC.
(Vol. xii., p. 226.)

The macaronic verses of infancy and early boyhood have had such a run in your pages, that it is quite time those of a later age should take an innings. When I was a schoolboy, the verses asked for by X. ran as follows:

Patres conscripti took a boat, and went to Philippi;
Boatum est upsettum, magno cum grandine venti.
Omnes drownderunt qui swim away non potuerunt.
Trumpeter unus erat, qui coatum scarlet habebat;
Et magnum periwig, tied about with the tail of a dead pig.

Verses of this character are tolerably ancient. Wright and Halliwell (Reliqiuæ Antiquæ, p. 91.) give a set, of which the first ten verses are as follows:

Flen, flyys, and freris populum domini male cædunt,
Thystlis and brevis crescentia gramina lædunt;
Christe, nolens guerras, sed cuncta pace tueris,
Destrue per terras brevis, flen, flyyes, and freris.
Flen, flyyes, and freris, foul falle hem thys fyften yeris,
For non that her ys lovit flen, flyyes, ne freris.
Fratres Carmeli navigant in a bothe about Eli
Non sunt in cæli, quia . . . . . . . .
Omnes drencherunt, quia sterisman non habuerunt,
Fratres cum knyvys goth about and . . .

This is from a manuscript of the fifteenth century. My omissions are put in cypher by Mr. Wright, and are not producible.

The following, taken by Halliwell from a manuscript of the sixteenth century is worth quoting entire. It is a breaking up song at Christmas; the third and fourth lines are exquisitely saucy:

Ante finem termini baculos portamus,
Capud hustiarii frangere debemus;
Si preceptor nos petit quo debemus ire,
Breviter respondemus, non est tibi scire.
O pro [per?] nobilis docter, now we youe pray
Ut velitis concedere to gyff hus leff to play
Nunc proponimus ire, withowt any ney,
Scolam dissolvere, I tell itt youe in fey.
Sicut istud festum merth is for to make,
Accipimus nostram diem owr leve for to take.
Post natale festum, full sor shall we qwake,
Quum nos revenimus, latens for to make.
Ergo nos rogamus, hartly and holle,
Ut isto die possimus to brek upe the scole.

In Wright’s Political Songs (p. 251.) there is a triglott performance, Latin, French, and English, of the time of Edward II. And this is enough for one kick of the ball.     M.

Notes and Queries, Vol. XII, No. 311, 13 October 1855.

Impracticable

In asserting the right of secession, it has not been my wish to incite to its exercise. I recognize the fact that the war showed it to be impracticable, but this did not prove that it was wrong; and now, that it may not be again attempted, and the Union may promote the general welfare, it is needful that the truth, the whole truth, should be known, so that crimination and recrimination may forever cease, and then, on the basis of fraternity and faithful regard for the rights of the states, there may be written on the arch of the Union, “Esto Perpetua.”

Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume 2, New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1881.

Scant Respect

The right or wrong of slavery we need not discuss, or attempt to determine who was most responsible therefor. The institution is dead beyond the possibility of resurrection, and the whole nation is glad. The later geographical limitations of slavery in the United States were determined not by conscience, but by climate. It was climate at the North and the cotton-gin in the South that regulated the distribution of slave labor. I have scant respect for a conscience too sensitive to own certain property because it is immoral, but which without compunction will sell the same to another at full market value. Had the slaveholders of the North manumitted their slaves and not sold them because their labor ceased to be profitable, there would have been more respect for their subsequent abolition zeal. It is matter of pride with us that no Southern colony or state ever had a vessel engaged in the slave trade. And several of the Southern states were the first to pass stringent laws against the importation of African slaves.

Charles Betts Galloway, Jefferson Davis: A Judicial Estimate, Southern Methodist Review, Volume 57, Issue 4 (1908).

Only the Shedding of Men’s Blood

Detail of manuscript illustration, depicting Vergil and Dante encountering Mohammed in Hell, MS. Holkham misc. 48, Inferno, Canto XXVIII.
Detail of manuscript illustration, depicting Vergil and Dante encountering Mohammed in Hell, MS. Holkham misc. 48, Inferno, Canto XXVIII.

When the candidatus was killed by the Saracens1, I was at Caesarea and I set off by boat to Sykamina. People were saying “the candidatus has been killed,” and we Jews were overjoyed. And they were saying that the prophet had appeared, coming with the Saracens, and that he was proclaiming the advent of the anointed one, the Christ who was to come. I, having arrived at Sykamina, stopped by a certain old man well-versed in scriptures, and I said to him: “What can you tell me about the prophet who has appeared with the Saracens?” He replied, groaning deeply: “He is false, for the prophets do not come armed with a sword. Truly they are works of anarchy being committed today and I fear that the first Christ to come, whom the Christians worship, was the one sent by God and we instead are preparing to receive the Antichrist. Indeed, Isaiah said that the Jews would retain a perverted and hardened heart until all the earth should be devastated. But you go, master Abraham, and find out about the prophet who has appeared.” So I, Abraham, inquired and heard from those who had met him that there was no truth to be found in the so-called prophet, only the shedding of men’s blood. He says also that he has the keys of paradise, which is incredible.

Didaskalia of Jacob.

1 On 4 February 634, dux and candidatus, Sergius, led a detachment of 300 soldiers from Caesarea against a superior Mohammedan force, commanded by Abu Umamah al-Bahili, at the Battle of Dathin, in the vicinity of Gaza (St. Theophanes the Confessor, Chronographia). The Candidatus fell alongside his men in the Byzantine defeat.

Morality, Chivalry, and the Sense of Truth

Critics of public-school religion really belong to two quite different groups—those who believe in the kind of religion which public schools try to instil, and regret their failure, in so far as they do fail, to instil it, and those who, believing in a different form of religion, whether Catholicism or an Anglicanism assimilated to it, tend to rejoice in the failure of the public schools, as becomes those possessed of an infallible remedy for such defects. I think, then, it should be said at the outset that public schools are trying to teach the sons of gentlemen a religion in which their mothers believe, and their fathers would like to: a religion without “enthusiasm” in the old sense, reserved in its self-expression, calculated to reinforce morality, chivalry, and the sense of truth, providing comfort in times of distress and a glow of contentment in declining years; supernatural in its nominal doctrines, yet on the whole rationalistic in its mode of approaching God: tolerant of other people’s tenets, yet sincere about its own, regular in church-going, generous to charities, ready to put up with the defects of the local clergyman. This religion the schoolmaster is under contract to teach; it is left to him, if he be a sincere Christian, to attempt the grafting on to this stock of supernatural graces which it does not naturally develop—self-sacrifice, lively devotion, worthy reception of the Communion, and so on. That is the proposition.

Now, here is no question of what could or what could not be done if all school chapels were furnished and managed like (let us say) St. Alban’s, Holborn. That is not the religion which the vast majority of parents want, and the vast majority of schoolmasters personally believe in. To attempt the consolation of the schoolmaster by pointing out to him the advantages of an elaborate ceremonial and strongly Sacramental doctrines, is like addressing a lecture on aviation to a shipwrecked sailor treading water in mid-ocean:

Nihil iste nec ausus
Nec potuit,

it is not his business.

On the other hand, it is true that there is a sense in which Catholicism can be taught, and ordinary Anglicanism cannot. For Anglicanism, generally speaking, is not a system of religion nor a body of truth, but a feeling, a tradition, its roots intertwined with associations of national history and of family life; you do not learn it, you grow into it; you do not forget it, you grow out of it. And if I were asked what was the best way of perpetuating this tradition among boys between the ages of twelve and eighteen, I would say, “Have a chapel of good architectural proportions, decently decorated; shorten the Anglican service for daily use; sing plenty of hymns, carefully selected; associate, as far as possible, the school with the school chapel; encourage the idea that its influence hallows school friendships, consecrates school triumphs; let the preaching be patriotic, but not Jingo, about the country, the Church, the school itself. Let confirmation be a public, not a hole-and-corner act; spare no effort to invest the Communion service with an air of special aloofness and sanctity.” It need hardly be said that this is exactly what public schools do. And the trouble is that it does not fail; it succeeds. It succeeds only too well.

— Ronald Knox, A Spiritual Aeneid, London, 1918.

Catonic Pleasure in the Defeated Cause

Figure representing "The South" atop the Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery.
Figure representing “The South” atop the Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery.

On the other hand, Catholicism as a factor in history was very real and very abominable to me. Protestantism has, I suppose, been instilled into English people of education not so much by those infant catechisms in which an earlier generation delighted, nor even by the solidly one-sided picture which is still given of the Reformation in all early histories, as by a single book—Westward Ho! Nothing else binds up quite so successfully the cause of England’s greatness with her loss of the Catholic Faith. I never read this book till much later, but I read many containing the same moral, and I came to assume, as all normal non-Catholic boys assume, that because the Reformation was successful it was therefore right,

Treason doth never prosper. What’s the reason? For, if it prosper, none dare call it treason—

There was never a more piercing analysis of English historical methods. The losing side is wrong, because it lost; William of Normandy was a patriot, Philip of Spain a tyrant. The Reformation may be cherished by its devotees because the fires of Smithfield failed; it is recommended to the hearts of Englishmen because the hangings at Tyburn succeeded. For, as a race, we pay our principal homage to the fait accompli.

I should say, then, that my historical views were as much coloured on this subject as those of most English boys—not more so, in spite of family traditions. But there is one exception, not indeed in the elementary histories, but in the novels of adventure, to this rule that the losing cause is wrong. A referendum in almost any collection of small boys would produce a vote in favour of, not against, the Stuart dynasty. Chiefly, I suppose, owing to Scott and Stevenson, this saving glimpse of the gloriousness of failure has been left to keep us all from pure materialism. In my own family, the “Cavalier” and “Roundhead” parties were equally divided at first; I had embraced the latter cause chiefly, I think, because my hair hung straight, and I envied my brother’s curls. At a sensational moment, for what reason I cannot remember, I played traitor to the standards of Dunbar and threw in my lot with the monarchy.

This fin de siècle loyalty never quite left me. Not, indeed, that I was ever in a serious sense a political Jacobite; when I argued at the Oxford Union that the Stuarts were the pioneers of Socialism I was conscious of paradox, and no one was more surprised than myself when, in commenting kindly on my conversion, the Daily News, my own breakfast organ, described me as “a Tory of the Tories,” and the Westminster Gazette speculated whether I was anxious to put Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria on the throne. But I did naturally join, at Oxford, the ranks of those Anglicans who look upon the White King as a martyr for episcopal religion; and of the effect of this atmosphere I shall have more to say later. But the thing went deeper than that: my sympathy for the lost cause of the Stuarts, combined with the sympathy I learned at Eton for “the sorrowful King” whose name closes the Lancastrian dynasty, did predispose me to an attitude of mind which is for reversing the judgments of history: I have always taken a Catonic pleasure in the defeated cause, and set my head against the stream. I am not here priding myself on the chivalry of such an instinct; I am only suggesting that it is open for anybody to find here the cause, or the first symptom, of that readiness to defend the indefensible with which critics have frequently credited me.

— Ronald Knox, A Spiritual Aeneid, London, 1918.

Coptic Cairo Churches c. 1867

Carved wooden iconostasis, in the Coptic Church of Saint Barbara, Old Cairo, Félix Bonfils (Maison Bonfils), 1867; albumen print; Library of Congress.
Carved wooden iconostasis, in the Coptic Church of Saint Barbara, Old Cairo, Félix Bonfils (Maison Bonfils), 1867; albumen print; Library of Congress.
Iconostasis in the Coptic Church of Saint Barbara, Old Cairo, Félix Bonfils (Maison Bonfils), 1867; albumen print; Library of Congress.
Iconostasis in the Coptic Church of Saint Barbara, Old Cairo, Félix Bonfils (Maison Bonfils), 1867; albumen print; Library of Congress.
Haikal (sanctuary) door (south aisle-chapel) of the Coptic Church of St. Barbara, Old Cairo, Félix Bonfils (Maison Bonfils), 1867; albumen print; Library of Congress.
Haikal (sanctuary) door (south aisle-chapel) of the Coptic Church of St. Barbara, Old Cairo, Félix Bonfils (Maison Bonfils), 1867; albumen print; Library of Congress.
Plan of St. Barbara from Butler, Alfred Joshua, The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, Oxford, 1884.
Plan of St. Barbara from Butler, Alfred Joshua, The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, Oxford, 1884.

Returning now to the main building through the open screen that marks off the corridor, one may notice that the haikal proper, and the two aisle-chapels are under lofty semidomes. But the eastern wall of the haikal has the unusual form of a seven-sided apse below changing roofwards to a semicircle. The haikal-screen is ancient and good, though somewhat battered: and in each spandrel of the doorway inlaid with ivory is a remarkable design of a rude winged figure climbing among and holding a creeping plant. These figures can scarcely be meant for angels, or for mere grotesques: for that strange love of mingling the solemn and the ludicrous, the sublime and the grotesque, which seems a permanent trait in the English character, has no counterpart among the Copts; though early Byzantine churches abound in quaint ridiculous carvings and impossible figures. There is nothing in Coptic churches like our ape-headed corbels, gurgoyles, frescoes of devils, and the monstrous beasts common in mediaeval churches, where a sacred subject is treated in a jesting manner: as for instance in the church of Stanley St. Leonards, Gloucestershire, where the fall of man is represented by a splay-footed, fish-mouthed, frog-eyed, melancholy quadruped, holding in one hand an apple, and with the other pulling the tail of a heavily-moustached ape or cat, whose pursed lips and fixed averted eyes convey most amusingly the idea of shocked virtue.

In the haikal I saw three fine processional crosses of silver, each cross hung with six small bells, and on the staff a banner. The two candlesticks on the altar are fine pieces of brass-work: there is also a small oval wooden incense-box now used as a crewet (5 in. high and 4 in. across) beautifully carved with foliated scrollwork and Arabic letters in high relief. The lid unfortunately is missing.

The screen before the south aisle-chapel is new: the chapel is square, but in the east wall is a wide niche, in the north wall a large aumbry 3 ft. across and 2 ft. deep. A score of small pictures lie rotting under the orthodox quantity of dust.

Against the screen of the north aisle-chapel hangs a picture of St. Barbara and her daughter Juliana. With a palm branch in her left hand, the saint is pointing to a model of a church which she holds in her right. The church is a six-domed Byzantine-looking building with a turret and cross-capped spire–probably a purely conventional symbol, as there is no trace of tower or spire in any Coptic church near Cairo at present. A silver plate, like a crescent, nailed round St. Barbara’s head represents a nimbus. Before the picture is a stand for a bolster of relics, and a curious three-branched pricket candlestick of iron, somewhat resembling that at Abu-‘s-Sifain. The interior of the chapel is wainscoted, and over the altar is a plain baldakyn. A curious little portable tower-shaped shrine (2 ft. 3 in. high and 9 in. square) shows in front a very fine deep-shadowed painting of John the Baptist, who carries a scroll with the legend ‘Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Before the picture is a little beam or bracket for tapers. The altar is littered all over with more or less ancient books of ritual that have been flung and tumbled together. Scattered among them or tossed in heaps on the ground at random lie candles, altar-caskets, old pictures, candlesticks, incense, ostrich-eggs, and silver censers in even unusual profusion and disorder, under layers of dust immemorial.

— Description of principal sanctuaries, screens, and accoutrements of St. Barbara’s Church from Butler, Alfred Joshua, The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, Oxford, 1884, pp. 238-241.

Interior of Coptic Cathedral of Saint Mark in Azbakeya, Cairo, with seats, iconostasis, icons, chandelier, and a spiral staircase leading to pulpit, Félix Bonfils (Maison Bonfils), 1867; albumen print; Library of Congress.
Interior of Coptic Cathedral of Saint Mark in Azbakeya, Cairo, with seats, iconostasis, icons, chandelier, and a spiral staircase leading to pulpit, Félix Bonfils (Maison Bonfils), 1867; albumen print; Library of Congress.

Ibrahim El-Gohary (died 31 May 1795), known by Christians as “Sultan of the Copts,” was chief scribe (prime minister) during the reign of Muhammad Bey Abu al-Dhahab, Mamluk emir and regent of Ottoman Egypt. Favoured by the Mohammedan rulers, El-Gohary was able to issue fatwas permitting Copts to rebuild churches and monasteries ruined by the Moslems. He was the first to build Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in the Azbakeya neighbourhood of Cairo. Having shown generosity to an Ottoman princess passing through Egypt on pilgrimage to Mecca, through her intercession with the Sultan, El-Gohary was issued a permit to construct the church. He died before its completion, and the building was finished by his brother Girgis El-Gohary, being consecrated by Pope John XVIII of Alexandria in 1800.

Interior of Abu Serga (Sts. Sergius and Bacchus) Coptic Church, Old Cairo, lattice choir screen, Félix Bonfils (Maison Bonfils), 1867; albumen print; Library of Congress.
Interior of Abu Serga (Sts. Sergius and Bacchus) Coptic Church, Old Cairo, lattice choir screen, Félix Bonfils (Maison Bonfils), 1867; albumen print; Library of Congress.
Plan of St. Sergius from Butler, Alfred Joshua, The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, Oxford, 1884.
Plan of St. Sergius from Butler, Alfred Joshua, The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, Oxford, 1884.

Abu Sargah is paved with hard siliceous grey limestone. The choir floor is two steps higher than the nave floor: a broad stone bench, probably answering to the solea, runs across the nave and north aisle at the foot of the choir-screen, which is of modern lattice-work. In a panel over the central choir door there is written, or rather wrought, in square Cufic-like letters of wood a short text, ‘Ya Allah al Khalas,’ i.e. ‘O God, Salvation.’ There is also a rude Coptic inscription upon the lintel of the doorway, which closes by double doors. Over the screen is a row of fifteen small paintings, and higher still nine large ones all, except the central Redeemer, nearly identical in treatment with those in the corresponding position at Abu-‘s-Sifain; and here, as there, the larger series lies between two bands adorned with golden texts in Arabic and Coptic.

— Description of the choir screen in St. Sergius Church, from Butler, Alfred Joshua, The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, Oxford, 1884, p. 189.

Wooden carvings in St. Sergius.
Wooden carvings, between the north chapel and main sanctuary, representing 1) The Nativity; 2) St. Demetrius (?); 3) Mâri Girgis (?); 4) Abu-‘s-Sifain (St. Mercurius) (?); and, 5) The Last Supper, in St. Sergius.

Between this point and the angle formed by the abutment of the haikal screen are some very curious early carvings in relief (F)–panels that were once no doubt framed in the leaves of a door like that of Al Mu’allakah. There are eight panels in all, each 10 1/4 in. high by 6 1/2 broad: of these, five represent sacred subjects and are probably of the eighth century, contemporary with the foundation of the church; the other three–one containing carvings of gazelles, two merely conventional scroll-work are rather later. Taking the subjects in order as they stand from left to right, we find–

(1) The Nativity. The Child lies swathed in a manger with rays of glory falling from a bow or circle above, in which are carved two faces, perhaps meant for the other persons of the Trinity. In the top background an ox on one side of the manger and an ass on the other stand gazing upon it, and behind each animal stands an angel with outspread wings. Below them, and partly concealing them, Mary is seen lying on a couch and Joseph kneeling on one knee. The lower half of the panel is occupied partly by two shepherds, indicated by their crooks and by a lamb, and partly by the magi bringing gifts. Every panel is surrounded by a very beautifully carved border, generally of scrollwork, but all different. In this case crosses are carved at the angles and in the centre of the sides. The Holy Family and the angels all wear plain nimbs.

(2) Perhaps St. Demetrius. A bearded equestrian figure clad in richly embroidered raiment: in his right hand he carries a long spear ending upwards in a cross, while the lower end is grasped by a prostrate foe whom he seems to be slaying. In the upper dexter corner an eagle is carved with folded wings. The horseman is turned full face to the spectator: a row of small circles round the brow represents curling hair or possibly a diadem. He wears a fine full glory. The horse has oriental trappings, which might be of any age.

(3) Mâri Girgis. This is another equestrian, very similar in treatment to the last: the spear-shaft, however, ends in a loop instead of a point at the bottom: there is no figure, not even a dragon, on the ground: and the eagle, here placed in the sinister top corner, is bending its head very low. The horseman’s lace is quite beardless, and the hair vaguely indicated.

(4) Abu-‘s-Sifain, or St. Mercurius. This title, like the last two, is very doubtful. The horseman is in almost precisely the same attitude as the others, the right hand carrying a long spear, the left reining the steed. But under the horse’s feet a man is seen sitting on the ground and apparently pierced with the spear. The victim, however, seems unconscious of his wound, and in his right hand is grasping a short rod which rests on a very perplexing little object in the background. I can only conjecture that it may be an oven, that the figure on the ground is heating a bar of iron, and that he represents some persecutor and torturer of the Christians being slain by their champion. The horseman is under a sort of trefoil arch: in both spandrels there are indications of curtains: in the sinister spandrel a hand is appearing, as from the clouds, holding out a crown.

(5) The Last Supper. This is an extremely interesting carving. It represents our Lord and the apostles seated round a long table which occupies the centre of the panel. The shape of the table is remarkable, the near end having square corners, the far end being rounded. On it are laid twelve small loaves, and in the centre is a large fish on a platter: there is no cup or drinking vessel. Christ in the lower dexter corner of the panel is grasping the fish. All the figures seem seated on the ground, wear nimbs, and face the spectator. The whole scene is grouped under an altar-canopy supported on two slender columns with early Arab capitals. A pair of altar curtains are seen running on rods above, but each is caught up and looped round a pillar, so as to leave a clear view of the scene below. The canopy is in the form of a circle between two triangles, all with elaborate borders. The circle encloses a fine cross, and a smaller cross stands on the apex of each triangle.

The ritual significance of this carving, which is obvious enough, has been commented upon in another part of this work. It is, I think, the only artistic monument definitely recording the early altar curtains of the Coptic ceremonial; although, as I have pointed out, there is abundance of other evidence to establish their existence. Possibly even the form of the table may have its own meaning.

— Description of carvings in St. Sergius Church, from Butler, Alfred Joshua, The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, Oxford, 1884, pp. 190-194.