ABSTRACT

The influence of the ascetic revival was moral and spiritual rather than constitutional, and nowhere can it be seen more clearly than in the poetry of the ninth century. The hermit retreated to the woods, living under the forest trees, regarding the seasons advance, listening to the birds, watching the wild beasts as they played or came to drink; 1 or he built himself a hut at the lakeside, or within sight of the sea, perhaps on one of the many islands which surround the coast, where he might meditate and pray. A man might come to such a cell after a long period of training in the monastic schools, so that a scholar sophisticated in taste and subtle in expression might enjoy without interruption the beauty of his surroundings at a time when his imagination, stirred by religious emotion, was peculiarly sensitive: hence his delight in the blackbird whistling from a yellow-heaped branch above Belfast Loch, 2 or his exultant exclamation, ‘Let us adore the Lord, maker of wondrous works, great bright heaven with its angels, the white waved sea on earth.’ 3