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§ 169. Walahfrid Strabo.

I. Walafridus Strabus, Fuldensis monachus: Opera, in Migne, Tom. CXIII.-CXIV. His Carmina have been edited in a very thorough manner by Ernst Dümmler: Poetae Latini aevi Carolini. Tom. II. (Berlin, 1884), pp. 259–473.

II. For his life see the Preface of Dümmler and Ebert, II. 145–166. Cf. also for his works besides Ebert, Ceillier, XII. 410–417; Hist. Lit. de la France, V. 59–76; Bähr, pp. 100–105, 398–401.

Walahfrid, poet and commentator, theologian and teacher, was born of obscure parentage in Alemannia about 809, and educated in the Benedictine abbey school of Reichenau on the island in Lake Constance. His cognomen Strabus or, generally, Strabo was given to him because he squinted, but was by himself assumed as his name.12751275    E. g. in Preface to his epitome of Raban’s commentary on Leviticus. Migne, CXIV. col. 795. From 826 to 829 he studied at Fulda under Rabanus Maurus. There he formed a friendship with Gottschalk, and there he appears to have lived all alone in a cell, the better perhaps to study.12761276    Ebert, p. 147. On leaving Fulda he went to Aix la Chapelle, and was befriended by Hilduin, the lord chancellor, who introduced him to the emperor Louis the Pious. The latter was much pleased with him and appreciating his scholarship made him tutor to his son Charles. The empress Judith was also particularly friendly to him. In 838 Louis the Pious appointed him abbot of Reichenau, but two years later Louis the German drove him from his post and he went to Spires, where he lived until 842, when the same Louis restored him to his abbotship, probably at the solicitation of Grimald, his chancellor.12771277   80 Dümmler, l.c. 261. In 849 he went over to France on a diplomatic mission from Louis the German to Charles the Bald, but died on August 18th of that year while crossing the Loire, and was buried at Reichenau.12781278    XV. Kal. Sept. Dümmler, l.c. 261.

Walahfrid was a very amiable, genial and witty man, possessed remarkable attainments in both ecclesiastical and classical literature, and was moreover a poet with a dash of genius, and in this latter respect is a contrast to the merely mechanical versifiers of the period. He began writing poetry while a mere boy, and in the course of his comparatively brief life produced many poems, several of them of considerable length.

His Writings embrace

1. Expository Works. 1. Glosses,12791279    Glossa ordinaria, Migne, CXIII.—CXIV. col. 752. i.e., brief notes upon the entire Latin Bible, including the Apocrypha; a very meritorious compilation, made especially from Augustin, Gregory the Great, Isidore of Seville, and Bede, with very many original remarks. This work was for five hundred years honored by the widest use in the West. Peter Lombard quotes it as “the authority” without further designation; and by many its notes have been given equal weight with the Bible text they accompany. It was one of the earliest printed works, notwithstanding its extent.12801280    Bähr (pp. 398 sq.) gives the dates of nine editions between 1472 and 1634. 2. Exposition of the first twenty Psalms,12811281    Expositio in XX. primos Psalmos, Migne, CXIV. col. 752-794. rather allegorical than really explanatory. 3. Epitome of Rabanus Maurus’ Commentary on Leviticus.12821282    Epitome commentariorum Rabani in Leviticum, ibid. col. 795-850. This work is an indication of Walahfrid’s reverence for his great teacher. 4. Exposition of the Four Evangelists.12831283    Expositio in Evangelia, ibid. col. 849-916. It was formerly printed among the works of Jerome. The notes are brief and designed to bring out the “inner sense.” 5. The beginnings and growth of the divine offices.12841284    De ecclesiasticarum rerum exordiis et incrementis, CXIV. col. 919-966. This valuable and original work upon the archeology of the liturgy was written about 840 at the request of Reginbert, the learned librarian of the abbey of Reichenau, who desired more accurate information upon the origin of the different parts of the liturgy. The supplementary character of the work explains its lack of system. Walahfrid treats in disconnected chapters of temples and altars; bells; the derivation of several words for holy places; the use of “pictures,” as ornaments and aids to devotion, but not as objects of worship; the things fitting divine worship; “the sacrifices of the New Testament” (in this chap., No. XVI., he dissents from the transubstantiation theory of Radbertus, saying, Christ “after the Paschal supper gave to his disciples the sacrament of his body and blood in the substance of the bread and wine and taught them to celebrate [the sacrament] in memory of his passion”12851285    De rebus eccl. XVI. Ibid. col. 936.); then follow a number of chapters upon the Eucharist; sacred vestments; canonical hours and hymns; baptisms; titles, &c. The work closes with a comparison of ecclesiastical and secular dignities.

II. A Homily on the Fall of Jerusalem.12861286    De subversione Jerusalem, ibid. col. 965-974. Walahfrid gives Josephus’ account of the fall of the city and then proceeds to the spiritual application of our Lord’s prophetic discourse (Matt. xxiv.).

III. Biographies. 1. Life of the Abbot St. Gall,12871287   290 Vita S. Galli, ibid. col. 975-1030. the apostle of Switzerland (d. 645 or 646). It is not original, but a rewriting of the life by Wettin, Walahfrid’s honored teacher at Reichenau. Walahfrid reproduced the same in verse.12881288    Dümmler, l.c., Vita Galli, pp. 428-473. 2. Life of St. Othmar, abbot of St. Gall,12891289    Vita S. Othmari, Migne, CXIV. col. 1031-1042. similarly reproduced. 3. The prologue to his edition of Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne, which gives valuable information about Einhard.12901290    Jaffé, Monumenta Carolina, pp. 507-8.

IV. Poetry. 1. The Vision of Wettin.12911291    De visione Wettini, Migne, CXIV. col. 1063-1082. Heito’s work la in Tom. CV. col. 771-780. Both are given by Dümmler, l. c pp. 267-275; 301-333. This is the oldest of his poems, dating according to his own assertion from his eighteenth year12921292    Migne, CXIV. col. 1064, ”qui pene octavum decimum jam annum transegi.” (i.e., c. 826). It is not original, but a versification, with additions, of the prose work of Heito. The ultimate source is Wettin himself, who relates what he saw (October 824) on his journey, under angelic guidance, to Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. The fact that Wettin was very sick at the time explains the occasion of the vision and his reading its contents, but the poem is interesting not only in itself, but as a precursor of Dante’s Divine Comedy.12931293    Ebert, l.c. 149. Cf. Bernold’s Vision in section on Hincmar. 2. The Life and Death of St. Mammes,12941294    Vita S. Mammae, Migne, CXIV. col. 1047-1062. Dümmler, l.c. pp. 275-296. an ascetic from childhood, who preached to the wild sheep gathered by a strange impulse in a little chapel. This extraordinary performance attracted adverse notice from the authorities. Mammes was accused of witchcraft and, on refusing to sacrifice to the gods, also of atheism. His enemies vainly attempted to kill him by fire, by wild beasts, and by stoning. Finally he was peacefully called from life by the voice of God. 3. The Life and Death of St. Blaithmaic, abbot of Hy and martyr.12951295    Vita S. Blaitmaici, Dümmler, l.c. pp. 297-301. Migne, col. 1043-1046. It relates how an Irish crown prince embraced an ascetic life in childhood and attained a martyr’s crown on the island of Hy. 4. Garden-culture,12961296    Hortulus, Dümmler, pp. 335-350. Migne, col. 1121-1130. a curious poem upon the plants in the convent garden. 5. On the Image of Tetricus12971297    De imagine Tetrici, Dümmler, pp. 370-378. Migne, col. 1089-1092. (Dietrich), an ingenious poem in laudation of Louis the Pious and his family.12981298    See Ebert, pp. 154-158. 6. Miscellaneous Poems,12991299    Dümmler, pp. 350-428. Migne, CXIV, col. 1083-1120. including epistles, epigrams, inscriptions and hymns.

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