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CHAPTER XIII.

HENCE come ye, friends ?” The poet fancies what the monk be

held. Alas! “I cannot name all that I read of sorrow, toil, and shame on your worn faces; as in legends old, which make immortal the disastrous fame of conquerors and imposters, the discord of your hearts I in your looks behold. Whence come ye? From pouring human

blood forth on the earth ? Speak! Are your bands in slaughter's sanguine hue stained freshly? Speak then! Whence come ye ?” A youth made reply,

“ Wearily, wearily, o'er the boundless deep

We sail. Thou readest well the misery
Told in these faded eyes ; but niuch doth sleep
Within, wbich there tbe poor heart loves to keep,
Or dare not write on the dishonored brow.
Even from our childhood bave we learned to steep
The bread of slavery in the tears of woe,
And pever dreamed of hope or refuge until now."*

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Such words spake the convertities when first they reached the portals which received them to religious peace. Such were their recollections of the world they were leaving, and such their experience on catching the first glimpses of a better. The change, though so complete, was often already consummated when they first came, for it was the previous conversion of their hearts to God which had made them resolve to assume the cowl of Benedict, or to gird themselves with the cord of St. Francis. Their voices, therefore, as we are led towards them, may be the echo of that chorus of spirits of which the same poet so beautifully sings,

Changed is our mind
Which was late so dusk, and obscure, and blind :

Now 'tis an ocean

Of clear emotion,
A beaven of serene and mighty motion.

“ Years after years,

Through blood and tears,
And a thick hell of hatreds, and hopes, and fears,

We waded and flew,

And the islets were few
Where the bud-blighted flowers of happiness grew.

* Shelley.

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“ Our feet now, every palm,

Are sandalld with calm,
And the dew of our wings in a rain of balm ;

And, beyond our eyes,

The human love lies
Which makes all it gazes on Paradise.”

In the beginning of this book we observed that there were men among the lost and found again for whom it was necessary that there should be places, as St. Bernard says, fit and delectable, not for rejoicing, as in the world, but for mourning the things comniitted in the world, where by much subtle and useful preaching of the seniors, and by much more subtle and useful examination of their conversation men might be instructed to all good,* in other words, that there are persons who must cloister them in some religious house, where holy lives must win a new world's crown, which their profane hours here have stricken down. The change of mind implied in this necessity, constituting the conversions which we are now about to consider, though deemed unintelligible by the blind world, remains a psychological fact, the existence of which, history places beyond all doubt or question. Could one read the hearts, kuown only to God, of men during the last moments that precede their death, during that twilight of life when nature makes a pause, and they lie passive and voiceless, with thoughts beyond the reaches of their souls, one would find that sooner or later the need of such mighty renovations became known to most of Adam's sinful children. But long before that hour, it lias been disclosed to thousands, to men who, as the poet says, in all their enjoyment

“ Have this trick of melancholy." and who say from the bottom of their hearts," in omnibus requiem qnæsivi, et in omnibus dolorem et laborem inveni. Non est requies nisi in hereditate sanctorum.” O melancholy ! who ever yet could sound thy bottom ! O God ! O God! how bitter is the state of man unreconciled, unsanctified ! Hearken to his cries,

woe is me—whence are we, and why are we? of what scene the actors or spectators ?_evening must usher night, night urge the morrow,-month follow month with woe, and year wake year to sorrow."

year to sorrow." St. Bernard heard cries like these. I have known men,” he says, “ satiated with this world, and to such a degree as to nauseate its memory. I have known them satiated with money, satiated with bonors, satiated with pleasures, satiated with curiosities, and not moderately, but even to the utmost stretch of loathing sitiated.”+ Nevertheless, the difficulty opposed to conversion might remain the same as before, for adversity and prosperity seem to present an equal obstacle to it. Therefore St. Augustin says, “ for me, when I reflect on the conduct of the lovers of the world, I know not at what time preaching can be employed most seasonably to heal their mind : for when

* Epist. 418.

| De Conversione, 14.

A holy pope

events are favorable to them, one sees them drunken with fortune; and the insolence of their pride makes them reject as fables, the remonstrances and sayings of holy men. If adversity press them, wholly occupied with what afflicts them, they think more of delivering themselves from the evil which they feel, than of taking measures against that which menaces them. Tire Israelites, oppressed by Pharaoh's officers, refused to pay attention to what Moses had to say to them from God. “They would not hear him," say the Scriptures, “on account of their extreme affliction, and the excess of the labor with which they were loaded.” “Non acquieverunt ei, propter augustiam spiritus, et opus durissimum.” therefore said : “ that it was a greater miracle to convert a sinner, than to restore a dead man to life.” “He who hath not experienced the enmity of the furies,” says the Greek poet and philosopher, “ knows not whence are the wounds of life.” The ancients thought that all unhappy men had their attending fury. The true wisdom, navarns Távrwv pápuakov ñ oopia, as it was styled by one, who, alas! knew it not, with the substitution of a word, accepts the same idea, suggests the need of discovering some spot like that promised by Minerva, raons annuov' oizvos, * the need of taking some courageous irrevocable step, which may secure for ever the soul from such demoniac persecution, and concludes her address to him, who feels the power of calamity in words like those which Dante heard, when admitted to behold the suffering spirits. “Oh! this is so strange a thing, it is a great sign that God doth love thee.” There are men who correspond to these first sounds of her voice, and say

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Some great thing is to be endured or done :

When I know what, I shall be still and calm,
And never anything will move me more."

Then begin those terrible struggles between the demon and divine grace in human breasts, which the chronicles of the ages of faith so awfully describe. Then there is a counter voice, which says,

“ Thine own soul is changed to a foul fiend

Through misery--
This fiend, whose ghastly presence ever
Beside thee like thy shadow hangs,
Dream not to chase ;-the mud endeavor
Would scourge thee to severer pangs.
Be as thou art. Thy settled fate
Dark as it is, all change would aggravate.”

Thus is he for a while turned back to thoughts which can delight no more, to books whose power is dead. Vainly would his winter borrow sunny leaves from any bough. He is discouraged at the immensity of the change reg . enim omnia ista ex errorum orta radicibus," as the philosopher says,

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quæ evel

* Æsch. Eum. 893.

1* and

lenda et extrahenda penitus, non circumcidenda nec amputanda sunt, “truly it is a great labor,” as Richard of St. Victor observe:, “ to desert accustomed things, to leave below long familiarized thoughts, and to ascend to things celestial.”+ One might describe what the converts suffered, in the very language of Plato, where he says, that “the soul when its wings begin to grow, suffers ir the same manner as the gums are affected with pain when the teeth first project,”! and illustrate it from that curious passage in which Plutarch speaks of the difficulty and disgust which is experience:l at the commencement, by men who engage in philosophy before they have experience of its joys. During this middle interval, he says that they suffer much, and that many fall back in consequence. Thus Sextius, a Roman, having abandoned the honors and offices of Rome for the love of philosophy, and soon after finding difficulties and torments in his studies, was going to throw himself headlong into the sea : he relates a similar thing of Diogenes, the Sinopien, when he began to give himself to philosophy. It was on a day of festive rejoicing with the Athenians ; the theatres were opened, assemblies were held, dances and masquerades occupied the whole night, while he in a corner of the place, shut up as if to sleep, began to give way to a thousand imaginations, which greatly weakened his heart, suggesting to him that he was going to throw himself voluntarily into a laborious, strange, and savage mole of life, being separated from the rest of the world and deprived of all good. With these thoughts present to him, hie espied a little mouse that came to gnaw the crumbs that had fallen from his great loaf, and this gave him fresh courage, and he said to himself, “ What sayest thou? Diogenes, behold a creature that still lives, and makes a feast npon thy leavings, whilst thou, coward as thou art, lamentest that thou art not drunken and surfeited like these men, satiated with luxury and delicacies."S

Thus St. Ephrem represents the demon entering into conversation with the Christian soul, and saying, “ What! always refuse yourself such and such enjoyment! How long will you torment yourself with these desires ! and the Christian resisting his suggestions by considerations drawn from the goodness of God, the shortness of human life, and the importance of eternal salvation.|| Difficulty is still in the way, and of greater magnitude, so that in a spiritual sense was verified the remark of a modern philosopher, “ we have tears in this world before we have smiles, Francesco ! We have struggles before we have composure; we have strife and complaints before we have submission and gratitude.” For as Hugo of St. Victor says, “ there is this difference between the love of the world, and the love of God, that the former seems sweet in the beginning, but proves bitter in the end, while the latter begins from bitterness, but has sweetness for its end.”T Discouragement, therefore, in the first stages of the new life ensues.

The combat

* Tuscul. iv. 26. De Contemplatione, 1. Lib.iii. c. 13. Phædrus. $“ How to perceive one's Prog." | Orat. 1. [ De Arca Morali, Lib. i. 1.

seems to slacken, but it is only because every power that fashions and upholds, works silently. Consideration, like an angel comes, as the poet says,

“Wbips out ihe offending Adam."

Then his resolutions become fixed to feed his eyes no more on vanity.

“O let me pot," quoth he, then turne againe

Backe to the world, whose joyes so fruitless are,
But let me here for aie in peace remaine.”

In fine, his wish becomes that which is so beautifully expressed by Shirley,

“ There is a sun ten times more glorious

Than that which rises in the east, attracts me
To feed upon bis sweet beams, and become
A bird of Paradise, a religious man,
To rise from earth, and no more to turn back
But for a burial.”-

Some may be offended on hearing of his choice, but all his true friends answer,

'O let him pass ! he hates him
That'would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer."

It would be difficult in this frigid atmosphere which now encompasses us, to conceive the meek and holy joy which the recital of such conversions exciied in ages of faith : “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” exclaimes St. Anselm, when he hears that his ancient friend Rodulf has become a mouk, “ glory be to God in the highest, who gives a good will to men on earth, 'qui in terra dat hominibus bonam voluntatem ;' whose right hand hath changed according to my desire, the will of my beloved friend from the vavity of the world, which profits no one, but injures all who love it, to truth which never injures any one, but which profits all who seek it."*

Of the successive scenes of this great drama within human breasts, it is not for my pen to trace eyen a faint ontline. What was the discourse which worked such miracles, can be learnt best perhaps hereafter, when we come to converse with the monks. Expressly suited sometimes to the professed enemies of peace, their words resembled those of Spenser.

“Henceforth the suitt of earthly conquest shoune
And wash thy hands from guilt of bloody field :
For blood can nought bul sin, and wars but sorrow yield.”+

Their exhortations. however, to embrace a monastic life, are chiefly founded upon the great truths, the appreciation of which moves men to a sense of religion in general, as when with St. Jerome they say,“if you had the wisdom of Solomon,

* Epist. 11. 10.

+ i. 10.

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