Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"One God, one Law, one Element . . . ."

In his poem "In Memoriam," an elegy written in memory of his friend Arthur Hallam, Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) ends with a peroration that vividly evokes the notion of the Eternal Law, its providential role in history, and the telos to which it strains, as it seeks to instaurare omnia in Christo. Cf. Eph. 1:10.
"One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves."
(It may be noted that Tennyson's vision was not necessarily an orthodox recapitulation of the world in the Incarnate Word, but was based upon Hegel's rather vague, pantheistic vision to be found in Hegel's Philosophy of History, a book that Tennyson's friend, Benjamin Jowett, described as one of his most favorite in a letter.)

That excerpt of the poem was chosen by Charles William Eliot, the President of Harvard University, to grace the gallery of the Rotunda of the Library of Congress, where, above the figure of History modeled by Daniel C. French, Tennyson's gilt words may be found.

Above the figure of Law, modeled by Paul W. Bartlett, are the words of the judicious Hooker, which state:
"Of law there can be no less acknowledged
than that her voice is the harmony of the world."
These tablets are held by two winged geniuses, and are framed above by palm branches which (according to the Handbook of the New Library of Congress by Herbert Small, et al.) mean peace, and framed below by a lamp and open book, symbolic of learning, surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves, which typifies strength. Thus they are part of a "whole group thus signifying the power and beneficience of wisdom."


  1. I am sitting at Desk #315 in the Jefferson Reading Room, looking at that panel right now!