Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/540

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there defending the oppressed. It is with a man of this kind, the Abbot Rabanus Maurus Magnentius, of Fulda, that we have to do in this essay. After the fall of the Roman Empire the spirit of knowledge became quite extinct, except for a few Greek minds in the Eastern Empire, and in England and Ireland, where gentler manners followed the introduction of the Christian faith and the Latin language, and learning gained a place of refuge; and the knowledge of antiquity spread after Archbishop Theodore and his deacon, Hadrian, founded the school of Canterbury about 680. At last, also, a short but relatively bright period of scientific awakening broke over Central Europe during the reign of Charlemagne, who strove to increase culture and learning in his own land and to introduce them into the countries that he acquired, and for that purpose called learned men to his court, among them Alcuin of England. The cloister schools prospered greatly under Alcuin, and some among them cultivated knowledge with quiet assiduity in the midst of the decline that set in soon after his death. Of these was the cloister of Fulda, to which our Rabanus Maurus was attached. He was born at Mayence, of an old noble family, in 774 or 776, and entered the cloister of Fulda as a puer oblatus (destined for the Church) when nine years old. He acquitted himself so well here that the Abbot Ratgar, in 802, sent him to the celebrated Alcuin at Tours to finish his education. Rabanus resided there a year, a favorite pupil of Alcuin's, who, according to the custom of the time, gave him the surname of Maurus. On his return to Fulda, Ratgar appointed him chief of the cloister school, which became famous under him. Soon afterward, however, the abbot changed his mind very suddenly, prohibited studies, and set the monks at manual labor in building churches. A poem written by Rabanus at this time has come down to us, in which he bewails the loss of his books. The monks soon became disgusted with this rude treatment, and complained of Ratgar to the Emperor, who removed him. Eigil was appointed to succeed him, and restored Rabanus, whose intimate friend he was, to his school. Monks came to Fulda from great distances to learn Rabanus's method of teaching, and his scholars were sought for on all sides, so that he soon became known as the first teacher in Germany. Rabanus himself became Abbot of Fulda after Eigil's death in 822.

Under his lead Fulda reached the height of its fame, and no other German cloister, except perhaps Reichenau, could compare with it. He committed the school to the care of his pupil Walafriedus Strabus, author of a work, "De Hortulo," in which twenty-three plants of the author's garden are celebrated in hexameter verses, and in the performance of his duties as abbot himself had but little time to devote to study. Politics claimed much of his attention, and in the x contentions which arose for the throne of the empire he defended the' cause of Louis against his son, composing in view of the strife a work