Page:Vactican as a World Power.djvu/207

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VIII 193

rather than liked. He was a ruler from sole to crown; but when negotiations were in progress he remained silent and allowed his ministers to speak. No princes or ambassadors were admitted to his presence until they had announced the object and the reason of their visit. His superstitions seem to have been more developed than his faith. Like other emancipated minds of his time for instance Frederic II, who at the end had faith only in his astrologer he ques- tioned the stars, wore a ring in which he believed that his helpful spirit was present, relied on the magic influence of his amulet, and clung to the strange knife which he carried as a protection against poison. Nevertheless he threatened those who practiced magic with eternal damnation. The reputation of this Pope is based in part also on rumours of the sacrilegious and heretical manner in which he made fun of the teachings and customs of the Church, of sodomy, and of the assassination of Celestine. None of this has ever been proved; but there is at least such a wealth of references to his vicious tongue that this is indissociable from his name. Beyond all doubt is the rude, sarcastic coldness with which he expressed his contempt for mankind. All things considered, a saying which cropped up during a meeting between him and the great Franciscan poet to whom he proved fatal is most pertinent. The Pope said to him: "I saw in a dream a great bell without a hammer what does it mean?" Jacopone replied: "It means you, a man without a heart." And many shared that view, cursing the Pope's famous physician for having extended his life.

But his enemies were no better than he. Throughout the whole great drama of Boniface the destroyer and self-destroyer, he remains the towering figure, and he alone is tinged by the tragedy of a strong man following his evil star to the end. How could historians have doubted that tragedy? The past folded in like a storm about his throne; and he on the throne was a storm unto himself. The faith he placed in the Papacy was not that of the great Popes before him. His tablets were not brought from Sinai, fresh from God's own Hand. He was not Moses but Aaron. The law in his despotic hands was not the law of his own heart. His zeal for the greatness of the Papacy was merely a personal passion. He was eager to become a powerful figure, with the help of the power of the Papacy. This he did but merely made the power subservient to himself. Therewith the throne