Imatges de pÓgina
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V118

(1823)

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Monthly Repository.

No. CCV.]

THE

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JANUARY, 1823.

THE NONCONFORMIST. No. XXVI.

Mahometan Influence on Christian Literature and Opinions.
ACCIDENTAL circumstances
CCIDENTAL circumstances ity, than the inveterate hostility which
was subsequently the result of the Cru-
devote considerable attention to the sading wars, would, at first sight, in-
literature, customs and opinions of duce us to suppose capable of having
the inhabitants of the South of France, ever existed between the rival fol-
among whom arose the first blossoms lowers of such widely different faiths.
of the modern European, as opposed
to the classic school of poetry, and
on whom the Arabian spirit of lite-
rary enterprise is generally considered
to have exerted so much influence.
In these inquiries it has often struck
me as, at any rate, rather a curious
coincidence, that the same people who
took the earliest strides in the pro-
gress of literary and political civili-
zation, should also be the most pro-
minently fixed with the stigma of
heresy for opinions little understood,
but certainly in many respects bearing
the marks of a very peculiar origin.
The result has been an endeavour to
up a few remarks on the influ-
ence which the various connexions of
Europe with the Arabian schools of
manners and science can at this dis-
tance of time be discovered to have
exercised; and though the following
observations are only put together
hastily to meet the present occasion,
they may, perhaps, at least, suggest
some points of inquiry, and supply
sort of sequel to the remarks which

In the earliest period of Mahometan
proselytism we may, I think, very
safely conceive it possible and proba-
ble, that even among many who refused
to acknowledge the miraculous mis-
sion of the Prophet, the corruptions
of the church, and the corrective ten-
dency of the new opinions, would
neutralize opposition if they did not
conciliate inclination in favour of the
Reformer, a character on which it
appears that he long rested his claims
on public consideration. On the other
hand, policy, as well as a congenial
feeling of opposition to the vices of
the Christian establishment, would
dispose the triumphant Mahometan
to protect and encourage those sects
which it found most widely opposed
to the prevailing corruptions. Certain
it is, that they tolerated, encouraged,
and even zealously fought for sectarians
who were in open rebellion to the
Greek Church, and particularly those
who were stigmatized as favourers of
Gnostic and Manichæan heresies, and
who, under the later epithet of Pau-
licians, every where signalized them-

draw

submitted on a former occasion.

I then briefly noticed the brilliant selves by the purity of their practice,
progress, particularly in Spain, of the if not by the simplicity of their creed.
Arabian poets, philosophers and me-
taphysicians, at a period when all mas of these sectarians would doubt-
The orientalism of the peculiar dog-
Christian Europe was sunk in the less tend greatly to soften the distinc-
lowest depths of ignorant sloth; and tion between them and their protec-
tion to the influence which they exer- point out several obvious coincidences
it remains for me to call your atten- tors, and it would be very easy to
cised during the early ages on the in the results which each deduced
their contemporaries and immediate speculations.
theological opinions and divisions of from the topics of their most favourite

successors, and to the circumstances

With the Jews the same feelings

which seemed to mark that influence seem to have early operated to pro-
with the character of toleration, as well duce among the learned professors of
These, I think it will be plain, facili- of its literary greatness, a courteous
as of freedom in speculative inquiry. the Mahometan faith, during the days

the part of the professors of Christian- tivation of common pursuits, and an

thed a much more cordial feeling, on reception, a zealous union in the cul

VOL. XVIII.

734642

[Vol. XVIII.

a

I

unrestrained freedom of speculative inquiry, on a variety of subjects equally interesting to both classes of believers. But without dwelling on points necessarily involved in great obscurity, it is sufficient here to observe, that at the period when the literary greatness of Moorish Spain was in its zenith, when it was exercising its widest influence on Europe, the genius of Arabian cultivation was strikingly, and to an extent never since equalled, tolerant and conciliatory towards the yotaries of faiths, apparently most widely and irreconcileably opposed and Christian, Jew and Islamite united in one harmonious effort for the promotion of what was thought science and philosophical inquiry.

From this union resulted a mutual agreement to declare, as neutral ground (open to all, and considered by none as constituting the essentials of their respective faiths) a vast field of speculative inquiry into the deepest theological questions. The European Universities did not consider it inconsistent with their religious faith to unite zealously with them in the same pursuit, and the schoolmen followed it up to the most subtle refinements, subject, however, to the continual protest of the more orthodox supporters of the church. The latter soon saw that these freedoms could not be permitted without danger to the system of absolute ecclesiastical authority, and, in the end, they were justified in their predictions by the excitement to inquiry and resistance which these speculations created.

The external influence of the energetic spirit of Arabian literature and refinement on the neighbouring European courts, need hardly be dwelt upon. Strangers flocked from all sides to the Saracen Universities for instruction. The Arabian geographers, naturalists and philosophers, were in all the Southern courts; and when the Gothic monarchies began to cultivate the sciences for themselves, their teachers and professors were almost all drawn from the Infidels, whom, as yet, they had not grown wise enough to despise and butcher. Those who inspect the scanty evidences which the literary remains of these early ages will afford of the state of political and religious feeling, prior to the Crusades, will be surprised to find how

little is to be found of that anti-infidel
spirit of exasperation which soon af-
terwards animated the Christian world.
Even for some time after, the the-
ologians on either side took little
share in the contest. Christian mo-
ralists and divines were proud to draw
their faith from Averroes, and to ex-
pound the Aristotelian philosophy on
the principles of the Arabian commen-
tators; and it may not be undeserving
of remark, that even the earliest tales
of romantic chivalry (those of the
Round Table) breathe nothing of the
bigoted spirit of religious intolerance
towards the Heathen, which distin-
guishes the similar productions of a
later age. If the deadly animosity
which afterwards prevailed had ex-
isted in the days of Charlemagne, it
is not probable that Salernum, the
central point of the political warfare
of the European and Asiatic powers,
would have been selected by him for
the foundation of an University where
European students might freely resort
for the cultivation of science, or that
such a spot could have maintained its
celebrity for the next three centuries.
Of all European nations, not im-
mediately under the Arabian yoke, the
inhabitants of Provence seem, on
many accounts, to have been most
subjected to its influence, on their
opinions, literature and customs. Their
poetry is generally allowed to have
been modelled on the tender and pas-
sionate tone of Eastern luxury. Their
institutions were gay, chivalric, liberal
and courteous; and even in their
courts and parliaments of love, with
all their frivolity, we may perceive
one useful principle established. Pub-
lic opinion was brought to bear upon
the highest ranks of society, and even
lawless power was confined within
conventual limitations, which it was
not prudent to violate or set at defi-
ance, The earliest efforts of this de-
mocratic freedom of the Troubadour
poets was manifested in eager satire
and invectives against the vices of the
church; and the opinions of the spe-
culative heretics, whom the Arabians
had protected and brought in their
train to seek an asylum from perse-
cution, here found a fruitful soil for
propagation. Thus the great princi-
ples of literary energy and social cul-
tivation, which the Arabian influence
established in the South of Europe,

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of Europe,

were from the first associated with with Manichæan and other Oriental
rebellion to church authority, with
free inquiry, and a spirit of concilia
tion among rival professors. Nothing
is more obvious than that the whole
genius of the Arabian policy and lite
rature in Spain, was one of liberality
and charity, and one which the church
did not till late see the policy of op-
posing by all its temporal and spiri-
tual authority.

errors.

It is singular that the earliest hereties of Europe should be the earliest poets; and if it be (as almost all the writers on the subject contend) clear that the poetry of the South of Europe owed its form and character to the Moorish school, that circumstance alone would lead us to suspect some considerable influence of the same school on the character of their theological speculations. The literature of the Vaudois, which certainly belongs to the 11th century, will not, perhaps, at first view, be admitted to be very closely connected with that of Provence. Yet the identity of the language, the vagueness But in the midst of all the fury of with which the terms of Vaudois, the Inquisition, which commenced its Albigeois, &c., were obscurity applied, and the reign of horrors in the native soil of histories and opinions which their respective poetry and romance, we still see the are involved, strongest traces yet uneffaced of the would lead me to suspect a much peculiar literary spirit which had been greater affinity, and antiquity of these impressed upon society. We actually sectaries, than is usually allowed. find a mock tribunal, not like the old which has lately been published by M. knotty points in amatorial casuistry, The religious poetry of the Vaudois, parliaments of love for the decision of

But the free spirit of the Troubadour school, and indeed almost every Arabian relation, soon became the object of vehement attack from the church. It will not be necessary for me to dwell here on the details of the blind and bigoted warfare in which the Christian world was engaged, especially during the 12th century, or to point out how effectually the church accomplished its object. The Crusades were the first result of its policy, and the same zeal was soon directed to uprooting the freedom of opinion which the Mahometan spirit had encouraged in the countries immediately subject to its operation. Domestic crusading against free inquiry among Christians, was the proper companion of intolerance towards unbelievers. The gay and smiling plains of Provence and Languedoc were soon deluged with blood; and the gay creations of chivalry and poetry fled from the scene of horror.

but one of the same external form,

Raynouard, would form in itself an
interesting subject for examination, devoted to the investigation and con-
particularly as furnishing evidence of demnation of theological heresies. In-
the real tendency of the opinions of stead of the Teuson being directed, as
these heretics, which hitherto we have before, to the solution of tender diffi-
been compelled to take on credit from culties and equivocal obligations, we

their enemies.

have Izarn, the Dominican Inquisitor,

During the violent persecutions of bringing forth a refractory heretic, to the Paulicians in the 9th century, it is wrestle with him on points of faith, between them and the Mahometan burning with more material flames, certain that a strict alliance existed and forcing him, under the pain of government; that they afterwards fol- to confess before the court the blaslowed its armies; that in various ways phemy of his creed, and the superior they directed their course into Europe, power of persuasion of his fiery antaand, apparently, chiefly by way of gonist. I do not mean, however, to Spain, through which they followed place the poetry of these heresy hunthe Moorish course to the South of ters on a footing with that of the obFrance, and were there patronized by jects of their wrath, and that I may the Troubadour courts, and especially not be mistaken, will give a specimen by the Counts of Toulouse. Here of the holy Inquisitor's style, in which the undefined title of Albigeois, and depress the flight of his muse. After their followers afterwards acquired I have attempted neither to elevate nor were supposed to be deeply tainted a long argument, which had hitherto

been attended with little success, the orthodox champion throws in the following powerful motive for choice:

As you declare you wont believe,
"Tis fit that you should burn,
And as your fellows have been burnt,
That you should blaze in turn.
And as you disobey the will
Of God and of St. Paul,

Which ne'er was found within your brave and generous warriors, and un

heart,

doubtedly those qualities were more
strikingly developed in some of the
leaders of the Musselmen armies than
in the bigoted warriors of Christen-
dom, generally the mere slaves of an
ignorant hierarchy. We can there-
fore little wonder that their fame was
through life aspersed by attacks on
the orthodoxy of their creeds.

But whatever zeal was displayed in
eradicating all traces of Infidel prin-
ciples and associations, it is impossi-
ble not to observe great and durable
effects upon the opinions and litera-
ture of Europe. Its poetry (if, in-
deed, it be so clearly traced, as is
generally supposed, to an Oriental
origin,) received, through the medium
of the Troubadours, a new and per-
manent character. Its scientific pur-
suits, its natural and moral philoso-
phy, were for many ages entirely Ara-
bian; and out of the subtle inquiries
of these schools sprung the greater
part of the current dreams on dæmo-
nology, magic, witchcraft and astro-
logy.

We shall have occasion to notice hereafter the graver speculations which were borrowed by the labouring learned of the European schools: at present we have only to advert to an acknowledged fact, that all which was in those days dignified by the name of science, whether experimental or occult, took its rise in the speculations of the Arabian Universities. Peter Maurice, the venerable Doctor, the friend of Abeillard, who went to study in Spain in the 12th century, bears testimony to the number of men of learning from England and other countries, whom he there found sedulously applying themselves to the study of such sciences as astrology. In such pursuits the Jew, the Christian and the Islamite, were at all times found cordially united, and that not only in the Mahometan states, but even the courts of Christian monarchs, of

at

Nor passed your lips at all-
The fire is lit, the pitch is hot,

And ready is the stake,
That thro' these tortures for your sins
Your passage you may take.

This extraordinary piece is particularly worthy of notice, as containing view of the opinions then generally attributed to the proscribed religionists, and among these the most prominent are those in which Orientalism prevails, and in which a Mahometan and a Christian schoolman would have found little difficulty in agreeing, at any rate, to consider as fair matter of innocent discussion. These chiefly relate to speculations on the principle of evil, the nature of angels, demons, &c., and, what is more extraordinary, a transinigration of the soul.

stigma of favouring the Mahometan
faith itself. Frederic Barbarossa, and
his successor Frederic II., are both
striking instances of this. They were
both zealous patrons of literature, and
where could they, if they cast their
eyes around them, see more compe-
tent models and instructors than in
the Moorish schools? They were

One peculiar instance, both of the inclination among many Christians to favour the liberal spirit and speculative freedom of the Mahometans, and of the zeal of the church in controuling this spirit, and rendering religious discord as vehement as possible, may be found, I think, in the strange and other wise almost inexplicable persecution of the Templars. Amongst the mass of absurd charges which were brought forward on the trials of the members of this devoted order, it is impossible not to suspect that there must have been some very urgent ground for alarm on the part of their prosecutors, and a great degree of favourable inclination towards their Mahometan opponents, who had, perhaps, in many respects, really a good title to their respect and esteem. For the same reasons, the history of these times records several instances of the most distinguished sovereigns of Europe, (who lead the Christian armies either froin political motives, or from deference to the enthusiasm of the age,) at constant variance with the church, and as constantly under the singular

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