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BELARD and Eloifa flourished in the twelfth century; they were two of the moft diftinguished perfons of their age in learning and beauty, but for nothing more famous than for their unfortunate paffion. After a long courfe of calamities, they retired each to a feveral Convent, and confecrated the remainder of their days to religion. It was many years after this feparation, that a letter of Abelard's to a Friend, which contained the hiftory of his misfortune, fell into the hands of Eloifa. This awakening all her tenderness, occafioned those celebrated letters (out of which the following is partly extracted) which gave fo lively a picture of the ftruggles of grace and nature, virtue and paffion.
A Traveller who visited the Convent about the year 1768 (fee Annual Regifter) fays, that its fituation and prospects by no means resemble Pope's beautiful and romantic defcription of it. Father St. Romain, the officiating Prieft, walked with him round the whole demefne. The Abbefs, who was in her eighty-fecond year, defired to see our Traveller, for fhe faid fhe was his countrywoman, and allied to the extinct families of Lifford and Stafford. She was aunt to the then Duke de Rochfaulcault; and being fifth in fucceffion, as Abbefs of that Convent, hoped it would become a kind of patrimony. We know, alas! what has fince happened both to her Family and her Convent! The community feemed to know but little of the afflicting story of their Founder. Little remains of the original building but a few pointed arches. In examining the tombs of thefe unfortunate lovers, he obferved that Eloifa appeared much taller than Abelard.
ELOISA TO ABELARD*.
N these deep folitudes and awful cells,
What means this tumult in a Vestal's veins ?
Dear fatal name! rest ever unreveal'd,
* However happy and judicious the subject of this epiftle may be thought to be, as difplaying the various conflicts and tumults between duty and pleasure, between penitence and paffion, that agitated the mind of Eloifa; yet, we must candidly own, that the principal circumftance of distress is of fo indelicate a nature, that it is with difficulty disguised by the exquifite art and addrefs of the poet. The capital and unrivalled beauties of the poem arise from the ftriking images and defcriptions of the Convent, and from the fentiments drawn from the myftical books of devotion, particularly Madame Guion and the Archbishop of Cambray.
VER. 1. In thefe deep folitudes] Thefe very beautiful lines appear truly to Lord Kaims to be faulty and exceptionable, on account of the pause that intervenes between the verb and the consequent substantive.
Hide it, my heart, within that close disguise,
Soon as thy letters trembling I unclose,
VER. 24. Forgot myself to flone] This is an expreffion of Milton; as is alfo, caverns fhagged with horrid thorn, and the epithets, pale-ey'd, twilight, low-thoughted care, and others, are first used in the fmaller poems of Milton, which Pope feems to have been just reading.
Some of thefe circumflances, in the fcenery view of the monaftery, have perhaps a little impropriety when introduced into a place fo lately founded as was the Paraclete; but are fo well imagined, and fo highly painted, that they demand excuse.
VER. 25.]" Heav'n claims me all in vain, while he"--was the the former reading.
Oh name for ever fad! for ever dear!
Now warm in love, now with'ring in my bloom,
To read and weep is all they now can do. allow that fad relief; give me all thy grief.
Then share thy pain, Ah, more than share it,
There ftern Religion quench'd th' unwilling flame,
VER. 40. Love and Fame] Fame is not a paffion.
VER. 41. Yet write] This is taken from the Latin letters that paffed betwixt Eloifa and Abelard, and which had been a few years before published in London by Rawlinfon, and which our poet has copied and tranflated in many other paffages: Per ipfum Chriftum obfecramus, quatenus ancillulas ipfius & tuas, crebris literis de his, in quibus adhuc fluctuas, naufragiis certificare digneris, ut nos faltem quæ tibi foli remanfimus, doloris vel gaudii participes habeas. Epift. Heloiffe, p. 46. From the fame alfo, the ufe of letters, ver. 51, is taken and amplified; and it is a little remarkable that this use of letters is in the fourth book of Diodorus Siculus.
Heav'n first taught letters for fome wretch's aid,
Thou know'it how guiltlefs firft I met thy flame,
VER. 63. Thofe fmiling eyes] Abelard was reputed the most handsome, as well as the most learned man of his time, according to the kind of learning then in vogue. An old chronicle, quoted by Andrew du Chefne, informs us, that scholars flocked to his lectures from all quarters of the Latin world; and his cotemporary, St. Bernard, relates, that he numbered many principal ecclefiaftics and cardinals at the court of Rome.-Abelard himself boasts, that when he retired into the country, he was followed by such immenfe crouds of scholars, that they could get neither lodgings nor provifions fufficient for them: "Ut nec locus hofpitiis, nec terra fufficeret alimentis." (Abelardi, Opera, p. 19.) He met with the fate of many learned men, to be embroiled in controverfy and accused of herefy; for St. Bernard, whofe influence and authority was very great, got his opinion of the Trinity condemned, at a council held at Sens 1140. But the talents of Abelard were not confined to theology, jurisprudence, philofophy, and the thorny paths of scholafticism; he gave proofs of a lively genius by many poetical performances, infomuch, that he was reputed to be the author of the