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LETTER LXI (A.D. 1138)

To Louis the Younger, King of the French.

1. If the whole world were to conjure me to join it in some enterprise against your royal Majesty, I should still through fear of God not dare lightly to offend a King ordained by Him. Nor am I ignorant who it is that has said, Whosoever resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God (Rom. xiii. 2). Nor yet do I forget how contrary is lying to the Christian calling and still more so to my profession. I say the truth, I lie not; what was done at Langres in the matter of our Prior9797    This refers to Geoffrey, Bernard’s kinsman, who after many disagreements had been at length unanimously taken from being third Prior of Clairvaux to be Bishop of Langres, A.D. 1138. was contrary to my expectation and my intention and that of the Bishops. But there is One who knows how to gain the assent of the unwilling, and who compels, as He wills, the adverse wills of man to subserve His counsel. Why should I not fear for him whom I love as my own soul, that danger which I have ever feared for myself? Why should I not shrink from the companionship of those who bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers? Still, what has been done, has been done; nothing against you, very much 295against me. The staff of my weakness has been taken from me, the light of mine eyes removed from me, my right arm cut off. All these waves and storms have gone over me. Wrath has swallowed me up, and on no side do I see any way to escape. When I fly from burdens, then I have them placed upon me to my great discomfort. I feel that it is hard for me to kick against the pricks. It would perhaps have been more tolerable for a willing horse than for one that is restive and obstinate. For if there were any strength in me, would it not be easier for me to bear these burdens on my own shoulders than on those of others?

2. But I yield to Him that disposeth otherwise, to contend with whom in wisdom or strength is neither prudent nor possible for either me or the King. He is, indeed, terrible among the kings of the earth. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God, even for you, O King. How grieved have I been to hear things of you so contrary to the fair promise of your early days! How much more bitter will be the grief of the Church, after having tasted first of such great joys, if, which God forbid, she shall chance to be deprived of her pleasant hope of protection under the shield of your good disposition, which up to the present has been held over her. Alas! the Virgin, the Church of Rheims, has fallen,9898    This was after the death of Archbishop Reginald, which happened A.D. 1139, on January 13th. and there is none to lift her up. Langres, too, has fallen, and there is none to stretch out the hand to help. May the goodness of God divert your heart and mind from adding yet more to our grief, and from heaping sorrow upon sorrow. Would that I may die before seeing a king of whom 296good things were thought, and still better hoped for, endeavouring to go against the counsel of God, stirring up against himself the anger of the supreme Judge, bedewing the feet of the Father of the fatherless with the tears of the afflicted, knocking at heaven’s door with the cries of the poor, the prayers of the saints, and with the just complaints of Christ’s beloved Bride, the Church of the living God. May all this never happen. I hope for better things, and expect things more joyful. God will not forget to be gracious, nor shut up His loving kindness in displeasure. He will not make His Church sad through him, and because of him, by whom He has already made her so much to rejoice. By His long-suffering He will preserve him whom He freely gave us, and if you think anything otherwise, this also He will reveal to you, and will teach your heart in wisdom. This is my wish, this is my prayer night and day. Think this of me, think it of my brethren. The truth shall not be sinned against by us, nor the King’s honour and the good of his kingdom diminished.

3. We give thanks to your clemency for the kindly answer which you deigned to send us. But still we are terrified to delay, as we see the land given over to plunder and robbery. The land is yours; and we plainly see and mourn the disgrace brought on your kingdom by your orders that we should abstain from our rights, inasmuch as there is no one to defend them. For in what else that has been done can the king’s majesty be truly said to have been diminished? The election was duly held; the person elected is faithful, which he would not be if he wished to hold your lands otherwise than through you. He has not yet stretched 297out his hand to your lands, he has not yet entered your city, he has not yet put himself forward in any affair, though most earnestly pressed to do so by the united voice of clergy and people, by the oppression of the afflicted, and by the prayers of all good men. And since this is the state of affairs there is, you see, need for counsel to be quickly taken, not less for the sake of your honour than our necessity. And unless your Serenity give answer according to their petition, by the messengers who bring this, to your faithful people who look to you, the hearts of many religious men who are now devoted to you will be turned against you (which would not be expedient), and I fear that no little loss will accrue to the regalia belonging to the Church, which yet are yours.


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