Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/569

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anything that had been written for a thousand years. They had left, too, works of architecture such that even the mutilated remains had been regarded by legend as the work of supernatural beings whom heathen poets had constrained by spells. The pagan view was now once more proclaimed, that man was made, not only to toil and suffer, but to enjoy. And naturally enough, in the first reaction from a more ascetic ideal, the lower side of ancient life obscured, with many men, its better aspects. It was thus that Humanism first appeared, bringing a claim for the mental freedom of man, and for the full development of his being. But, in order to see the point of departure, it is necessary to trace in outline the general course of literary tradition in Europe from the fifth century to the fourteenth.

The fall of the Western Empire in the fifth century was followed by a rapid decline of education and of general culture. The later ages of classical antiquity, if comparatively poor in the higher kind of literary genius, were still familiar with the best writers of Greece and Rome, and continued to be prolific in work inspired by good models. They also retained the traditions of that civilisation and social life out of which the classical literature had arisen. But the barbarian invaders of Italy and Gaul were strangers to that civilisation; they brought with them a life in which the ancient culture found no place. The schools of the Roman Empire were swept away, or died out. Such education as survived was preserved by the Church, and was almost wholly confined to ecclesiastics. Monasteries had begun to multiply in the West from the close of the fourth century. Their schools, and those attached to cathedrals, alone tempered the reign of ignorance. The level of the monastic schools was the higher. In the cathedral schools the training was usually restricted to such rudiments of knowledge as were indispensable for the secular clergy, viz., reading, writing, arithmetic, and elementary music. But even in the monastic schools the course was usually meagre and narrow. The superior education of the age was chiefly based on a few jejune text-books, compilations and abridgments from older sources. One of these was the treatise of the African rhetorician, Martianus Capella (flor. c. 420), on the Septem Artes Liberales,—grammar, logic, rhetoric, music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. The form is allegorical; Mercury weds Philology, and at their nuptials assigns the Arts to her as handmaids. Capella was, however, regarded with disfavour by those Christian teachers who rigorously proscribed pagan literature; and his book, though it remained an authority down to the Renaissance, was not everywhere admitted. Thus it is absent from Alcuin's catalogue (made c. 770) of the library at York, a fairly representative collection of the books which then were most read. The Seven Arts had been distributed, so early as the fifth century, into the trivium, consisting of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, and the quad-rivium, comprising the other four. Grammar was taught by excerpts