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Bernard of Cluny

BERNARD OF CLUNY (Bernardus Morlanensis, often called Bernard of Morlaix, Morlanensis being improperly rendered Morlaix instead of Morlas): Monk of Cluny; b. probably at Morlas (5 m. n.e. of Pau, and then the capital of the province of Béarn); d. at Cluny probably about the middle of the twelfth century. Nothing more is known of him, except that he wrote a satirical poem of 2,991 lines, divided into three books, and entitled De contemptu mundi, dedicating it to Peter the Venerable. The theme is a monastic and ascetic commonplace, but its handling reveals vigor and satirical power. The meter is a medieval adaptation of the dactylic hexameter, so difficult that Bernard believed he had divine assistance in keeping it up for so many lines; each pair of lines rimes and the first third of each line rimes with the second, thus (lines 1–2):

"Hora novissima, tempora pessima sunt, vigilemus.

 Ecce minaciter imminet arbiter ille supremus."

As to contents the poem is a satirical arraignment of the twelfth century for its vices in Church and society, sparing not even monks and nuns, but so exaggerated that it can not be accepted as history. The opening of the first book and the concluding part of the third are on spiritual themes of uncommon beauty. The poem exists in at least nine contemporary manuscripts and so must have been popular in its day. But it was forgotten until Matthias Flacius Illyricus discovered it and, with a view of showing that the evils of medieval Romanism of which the Protestants complained were already pilloried by Rome's faithful sons, printed a few lines from its third book in his Catalogus testium veritatis qui ante nostram ætatem reclamarunt papæ (Basel, 1556), and the next year the entire poem in the collection of similar poems which he entitled Varia doctorum piorumque virorum de corrupto Ecclesiæ statu poemata ante nostram ætatem conscripta. This collection was reprinted in 1754, probably at Frankfort. The first to bring Bernard's poem out separately was Nathan Chytræus (Bremen, 1597), and he was followed by Eilhard Lubin (Rostock, 1610), Petrus Lucius (Rinteln, 1626), and Johann and Heinrich Stern (Luneburg, 1640). Finally Thomas Wright reprinted it in his Anglo-Latin Satirical Poets of the Twelfth Century (London, 1872, Rolls Series, No. 59). The first complete translation, in prose, was published by Henry Preble (AJT, Jan.–July, 1906). In 1849 Trench published in his Sacred Latin Poetry (London) ninety-six lines from its first book, and these attracted the delighted attention of John Mason Neale, who translated them in his Mediæval Hymns and Sequences (London, 1851). His translation from Bernard leaped into wonderful popularity and was separately printed along with other lines not in Trench, as The Rhythm of Bernard de Morlaix, Monk of Cluny, on the Celestial Country (London, 1859; often reprinted). One of the hymns made by division out of this translation, "Jerusalem the golden," is found in all hymnbooks. Other pieces in prose and poetry are also attributed to Bernard.

Bibliography: S. M. Jackson, The Source of "Jerusalem the Golden" and Other Pieces Attributed to Bernard of Cluny, Chicago, 1909 (contains Preble's translation of the De contemptu mundi, and an elaborate introduction and bibliography).

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