Lines 22-34

Those holy Muses taught Hesiod beautiful songs

when he shepherded sheep under holy Helicon.

They spoke to me first of stories, those Olympian Muses did,

those daughters of aegis-bearing Zeus: ‘You who dwell in the fields,

base reproaches on your name, for you are only bellies:

We know how to speak lies in place of truth;

and we are the one who proclaim truth whenever we wish.’ 

So spoke the silver-tongued muses, daughters of great Zeus,

as they gave to me a staff, made from a bough

of prosperous laurel, a veritable wonder;

and into me they breathed divinely inspired song,

so that I might glorify the things that are to come

and the things that have already passed.

They ordered me to praise with hymns the blessed race

that lives undying, always and forever, and to sing

of them only, at the beginning and in the end.


To get back into the rhythm of posting, I’m going to give you our translation of Hesiod’s Theogony.

Let us begin to sing of the Heliconian muses,

who live on that great and sacred mount of Helicon,

where they dance around the purple spring

and the altar of the mighty son of Kronos.

Bathing their smooth skin clean in the Permessus,

or perhaps the Hippocrene, or holy Olmeius,

they sing choral odes on highest Helicon,

beautiful odes, odes inciting love,

as they dance nimbly about on their soft feet.

Setting out from that sacred place, they walk

covered in thick mist, dwellers of the night,

their beautiful voices calling forth, singing

the praises of the aegis-bearing Zeus,

and queenly Hera of Argos, whose feet

walk in golden sandals; grey-eyed Athena also,

daughter of the aegis-bearer; and Phoebos Apollo,

and arrow-shooting Artemis; earthbreaking,

earthshaking Poseidon and venerated Themis;

quick-glancing Aphrodite and gold-crowned Hebe;

beautiful Dione, and Leto, and Iapetus, and wily Kronos too,

and Eos and great Helios and the shining Selene;

and Earth and great Ocean and dark Night,

and the holy race of the rest of the immortals

who live undying.

The fall of the great Benedictine monasteries of the Middle Ages came when Charlemagne decided they should provide education of letters and the liberal arts in addition to religious devotion. Until this point, the monasteries had remained true to the ideals of St. Jerome, who once said, ‘a monk’s office is not a teacher’s but a mourner’s, who bewails either himself or the world.’ Unlike the new Franciscan and Dominican mendicant orders, once a monk joined a monastery, he stayed there for the rest of his life. He worked the fields, cooked in the kitchens, and the monasteries were essentially self-sustainable. After Charlemagne’s decree, the monks who inhabited them were no longer free to devote their time to only prayer and the exigencies of living.

The segregated nature of these older monasteries folded under, and gave way to mendicant orders–the Dominicans and Franciscans–that sustained themselves by begging. They weren’t chained by necessity to a hoe and pitch-fork, and this gave them the freedom to travel across Europe. St Thomas himself wandered back and forth across the continent numerous times.

Universities arose from these monasteries of learning, and peasants slowly built towns up around them, for they now worked the fields and fed the monasteries. Instead of a feudal, agrarian society, towns took over, and cities arose, which were built in the new Gothic style, learnt from the Arabs of Muslim Spain–al-Andalucia. Everywhere that cities grew the Gothic took hold, in the cathedrals and the schools, and it changed the atmosphere of the land from the downward, earthy, dismal spirit of Romanesque Architecture, which used its weight to remind man of his suffering, his original sin that kept him from the ecstacy of God’s embrace. The Romanesque man was entrenched firmly in the wet ground, and sought to plumb no heights. The new Gothic cathedrals were soaring arches of stone whose carvings were so detailed the naked eye alone could not see them from the cathedral floor, and they swept up into the sky, afire with the light of God’s creation as it streamed in through the stone walls that the Romanesque style had made as impassible as St Peter’s Gate.

Now, instead of existing in the base nature of God’s creation, man could worship bathed in the light of his Word. The stained glass windows took the invisible magic of light and made it visible, even divisible, and revealed its composite parts, just as philosophy would reveal the nature of God’s universe. The windows revealed the Acts of God to man, showing His hand as it acts in everyday life. Everything became a theophany.

On Charlemagne’s establishment of monastic schools: