Historical Reprints History Ruin of Britain : Penitential, Lorica Of Gildas

Ruin of Britain : Penitential, Lorica Of Gildas

Ruin of Britain : Penitential, Lorica Of Gildas
Catalog # SKU1281
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Gildas the Wise


Ruin of Britain

Fragments From Lost Letters,
The Penitential,
Together With
The Lorica Of Gildas.

Translated: 1899

Gildas the Wise
Translator: HUGH WILLIAMS, M. A.

IN the present edition, it is intended to publish in a collected form the works ascribed to Gildas for which, roughly speaking, a date is assigned during the twenty years that elapsed between A.D. 540 and 560. The earliest references to Gildas that have come down to us are the two made by Columbanus in his letter to St. Gregory the Great, which must have been written between thirty and forty years after the death of the British writer (i.e., A.D. 595-600). In the first passage, he is mentioned as Gildas auctor who has written against simony in bishops; in the second, as having been engaged in correspondence, respecting the monks who were leaving their convents to become hermits, with Vennianus, probably Finian, the abbot of Clonard in Meath, to whom Gildas sent "an exceedingly noble answer" (et eligantissime illi rescripsit). Gildas is thus widely known, not very long after his death, as a writer on ecclesiastical abuses, and as a correspondent whose opinion on new and doubtful movements was highly valued in Ireland.


1. WHATEVER my attempt shall be in this epistle, made more in tears than in denunciation, in poor style, I allow, but with good intent, let no man regard me as if about to speak under the influence of contempt for men in general, or with an idea of superiority to all, because I weep the general decay of good, and the heaping up of evils, with tearful complaint. On the contrary, let him think of me as a man that will speak out of a feeling of condolence with my country's losses and its miseries, and sharing in the joy of remedies. It is not so much my purpose to narrate the dangers of savage warfare incurred by brave soldiers, as to tell of the dangers caused by indolent men. I have kept silence, I confess, with infinite sorrow of heart, as the Lord, the searcher of the reins, is my witness, for the past ten years or even longer; I was prevented by a sense of inexperience, a feeling I have even now, as well as of mean merit from writing a small admonitory work of any kind.

I used to read, nevertheless, of the wonderful legislator, that he did not enter the desired land because of hesitation in a single word; that the priest's sons, through bringing strange fire to the altar, perished in sudden death; that the people who transgressed the words of God, 600,000 of them, two faithful ones excepted, although beloved of God, because unto them the way was made plain over the bed of the Red Sea, heavenly bread was given as food, new drink from the rock followed them, their army was made invincible by the mere lifting up of hands----that this people fell in different places by wild beasts, sword and fire throughout the desert parts of Arabia. After their entrance by an unknown gate, the Jordan, so to say, and the overthrow of the hostile walls of the city at the mere sound of trumpets by God's command, I read that a small mantle and a little gold appropriated of the devoted thing laid many prostrate; that the covenant with the Gibeonites, when broken (though won by guile), brought destruction upon some: that because of the sins of men we have the complaining voices of holy prophets, and especially of Jeremiah, who bewails the ruin of his city in four alphabetic songs.

I saw that in our time even, as he wept: The widowed city sat solitary, heretofore filled with people, ruler of the Gentiles, princess of provinces, and had become tributary. By this is meant the Church. The gold hath become dim, its best colour changed; which means the excellence of God's word. The sons of Zion, that is, of the holy mother the Church, famous and clothed with best gold have embraced ordure. What to him, a man of eminence, grew unbearable, has been so to me also, mean as I am, whenever it grew to be the height of grief, whilst he wailed over the same distinguished men living in prosperity so far as to say: her Nazarenes were whiter than snow, ruddier than old coral, fairer than sapphire. These passages and many others I regarded as, in a way, a mirror of our life, in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and then I turned to the Scriptures of the New; there I read things that previously had perhaps been dark to me, in clearer light, because the shadow passed away, and the truth shone more steadily.

I read, that is to say, of the Lord saying: I am not come but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And on the other side: But the sons of this Kingdom shall be cast into outer darknesses, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Again: It is not good to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs. Also: Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. I heard: Many shall come from east and west and recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven; and on the other hand: And then shall I say unto them: depart from me ye workers of iniquity. I read: Blessed are the barren and the breasts that have not given suck; and on the contrary: Those who were ready, entered with him to the marriage feast, then came also the other virgins saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; to whom the answer was made, I know you not. I heard certainly: He who believeth and is baptised, shall be saved, he, however, who believeth not shall be condemned.

I read in the apostle's word that a branch of the wild olive had been grafted into the good olive tree, but that it must be broken off from partaking in the root of fatness of the same, if it did not fear, but should be high-minded. I knew the mercy of the Lord, but feared his judgment also; I praised his grace, but dreaded the rendering unto each one according to his works.

As I beheld sheep of one fold unlike one another, I called Peter, with good reason, most blessed on account of his sound confession of Christ, but Judas most unhappy because of his love of covetousness; Stephen I called glorious, because of the martyr's palm; Nicolas, on the contrary, miserable, owing to the mark of unclean heresy. I read, indeed: They had all things in common, but I read also: Why did ye agree to tempt the Spirit of God? I saw, on the contrary, what great indifference had grown upon the men of our age, as if there were no cause for fear.

These things, and many others which I have decided to omit for the sake of brevity, I pondered over with compunction of heart and astonishment of mind. I pondered----if the Lord did not spare a people, peculiar out of all the nations, the royal seed and holy nation, to whom he had said: Israel is my first born ----if he spared not its priests, prophets, kings for so many centuries, if he spared not the apostle his minister, and the members of that primitive church, when they swerved from the right path, what will he do to such blackness as we have in this age? An age this to which has been added, besides those impious and monstrous sins which it commits in common with all the iniquitous ones of the world, that thing which is as if inborn with it, an irremovable and inextricable weight of unwisdom and fickleness.

What say I? Do I say to myself, wretched one, is such a charge entrusted to thee (as if thou wert a teacher of distinction and eminence), namely to withstand the rush of so violent a torrent, and against this array of growing crimes extending over so many years and so widely, keep the deposit committed to them, and be silent? Otherwise this means, to say to the foot, watch, and to the hand, speak.

Britain has rulers, it has watchers. Why with thy nonsense art thou inclined to mumble? Yea, it has these; it has, if not too many, not too few. But, because they are bent clown under the pressure of so great a weight, they have no time to breathe. My feelings, therefore, as if fellow debtors with myself, were alternately engrossed by such objections, and by such as had much sharper teeth than these. These feelings wrestled, as I said, for no short time, when I read: 'There is a time to speak and a time to keep silence, and wrestled in the straight gate of fear, so to speak. At length the creditor prevailed and conquered. He said: If thou hast not the boldness to feel no fear of being branded with the mark that befits golden liberty among truth-telling creatures of a rational origin second to the angels, at least shrink not from imitating that intelligent ass, inspired, though mute, by the Spirit of God. Unwilling it was to be the carrier of the crowned magician about to curse the people of God; it bruised his feeble foot in the narrow path near the wall of the vineyards, though it had on that account to feel his blows like those of an enemy. She pointed out to him the angel from heaven, as if with the finger, holding his naked sword and opposing them (whom he in the blindness of cruel stupidity had not observed), though the magician, ungrateful and furious, was unrighteously beating her innocent sides.

In my zeal, therefore, for the holy law of the Lord's house, constrained by the reasons of my own meditation or overcome by the pious entreaties of brethren, I am now paying the debt exacted long ago. The work is, in fact, poor, but, I believe, faithful and friendly to all noble soldiers of Christ; but severe and hard to bear to foolish apostates. The former of these, if I am not mistaken, will, peradventure, receive it with the tears that flow from the love of God; the others, also, with sorrow, but the sorrow which is wrenched from the anger and timidity of an awakened conscience.

2. Before, however, fulfilling my promise, let me attempt to say a little, God willing, concerning the geographical situation, the stubbornness, the subjection and rebellion of our country; also of its second subjection and hard service; of religion, persecution, and holy martyrs, of diverse heresies; of tyrants, of the two nations which wasted it; of defence and of consequent devastation; of the second revenge and third devastation, of famine; of the letter to Agitius; of victory, of crimes; of enemies suddenly announced; of the great well-known plague; of counsel; of enemies far more fierce than the first; of the ruin of cities, of the men who survived; of the final victory won by the mother country, which is the gift granted by the will of God in our own times.

195 + pages - 8 x 5 inches SoftCover


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