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Morgus 1 Haleigh Morgus HN202: Human Drama Dr.

Bauerschmidt 5 February 2013 An Augustinian Impression of Beowulf and Charlemagne Beowulf and Charlemagne, the protagonists of their respective tales, are both portrayed by their respective authors to be heroes of their time. Beowulf tells the story of a hero living in a pagan world, but nevertheless the author immerses the book with references to Christianity. In Two Lives of Charlemagne, Charlemagne reigns as a Christian emperor, and is described to have lived a life of deep piety towards God. Although both characters are depicted as magnificent leaders of earthly cities, does each of them have the characteristics that would allow them to be citizens of St. Augustines heavenly city described in City of God? Augustine depicts the earthly city as a place where people live their lives delighting in their own glory and glory of their empire; it is a place formed by love of self. The heavenly city, on the other hand, is a place characterized by love of God, where one delights in Gods glory and strives to love and serve others (Augustine, 477). In order to discern Augustines opinion on the two characters, the glory, self-love, love for others and love for God that both Beowulf and Charlemagne possess must be analyzed. If St. Augustine were to interpret Beowulf, he would observe that Beowulfs pride, combined with his desire for material wealth and self-glory would place him in the earthly city, however, his apparent selflessness and love towards his own people are characteristics worthy of someone who belongs in the city of God. Augustine asserts that

Morgus 2 the origin of our evil will is pride, for pride is the beginning of sin, and that pride in its perversity apes God, (Augustine, 460, 689). After Beowulf defeats both Grendel and his mother, Hrothgar echoes Augustines condemnation of pride, warning Beowulf not to give way to pride. For a brief while your strength is in bloom but it fades quickly, (Beowulf, 1760-1762). Nonetheless, Beowulf remains a proud warrior and leader; when the dragon attacks his people he is too proud to line up with a large army against the sky-plague, and instead tries to retain his previous glory by taking on the monster himself (Beowulf, 2345-2346). As Beowulf prepares to take on the dragon he remarks that he shall pursue this fight for the glory of winning, (Beowulf, 2513-2514). In order for Beowulf to gain entrance into the heavenly city, his quests for glory should not have been focused on winning, but instead a pursuit to glorify God through his actions. In taking down the dragon Beowulf is lofty in his deeds, and not humble. Showing pride over humility places Beowulf in the earthly city because humility is specially recommended to the city of God, and humility, by making us subjects of God, exalts us, (Augustine, 461). Augustine would also criticize that gifts are given to reward earthly prowess and glory, rather than given because of humble and diligent obedience to God. In the heavenly city there is no human wisdom, but only godliness, which offers due worship to the true God, (Augustine, 477). Laying an abundance of bounty upon a man on earth for his deeds is glorifying him and making him god-like. The customs of the civilization that Beowulf lives in go against glorifying God because the people instead glorify heroes. Although he has traits that Augustine would view negatively, Beowulfs respect towards God counteracts his proud demeanor and desire for material wealth. Despite the

Morgus 3 fact that Beowulfs victories over Grendel and Grendels mother were quests for glory, Beowulf does remember to thank God his creator as he faces the terrors. Before he takes on Grendel, Beowulf acknowledges that he himself does not decide his fate and strength. He asks that the Divine Lord in His wisdom grant the glory of victory to whichever side He sees fit, (Beowulf, 685-687). The author also fills the text with many references to God and Beowulfs appreciation towards God, depicting Beowulf as not just a hero, but as one filled with piety. In his attempts to defeat the monsters Beowulf is mindful of his mighty strength, the wondrous gifts God had showered on him: he relied for help on the Lord of All, on His care and favor, (Beowulf, 1270-1273). Since the author frequently interposes a Christian attitude into a tale about a hero, it is evident that he is a Christian author writing about a pagan civilization. By depicting Beowulf as a man come to destroy a member of Cains clan, whom the creator had outlawed, Beowulf can be viewed as a member of the heavenly city, come to take down a terrible descendant of one of the first citizens of the earthly city, Cain (Beowulf, 106). Cain was the founder of the earthly city and overcome with envy, he slew his brother, a citizen of the eternal city, (Augustine, 482). Augustine would commend the rebuttal of Beowulf, a potential member of the heavenly city, against Grendel, a definite member of purely the earthly city. Beowulfs condemnation of fratricide, telling Unferth that because he killed his own kin he will suffer damnation in the depths of hell, also links Beowulf to the story of Cain and Abel (Beowulf, 589). Augustine would view Beowulfs stand against fratricide as a trait of someone worthy of entering the heavenly city. In Augustines evaluation of Two Lives of Charlemagne, he would criticize how Charlemagnes life was filled with a plethora of wars and wives, but approve of the

Morgus 4 emperors extensive philanthropy towards Gods church and people. The biggest qualm that Augustine would have with Charlemagne is all the wars that Charlemagne becomes involved in. Einhard devotes a majority of the beginning of his work on Charlemagne to a description of all the wars that were fought under Charlemagnes rule, and all of the people that were fiercely conquered for desire of power and glory. Even the friendships that Charlemagne made were for the glory of his kingdom, (Einhard, 29). Augustine finds great misery in wars, even of those called just. He believes that although the wise man claims to only wage just wars, entire races are agitated and men are made miserable no matter what the cause for war (Augustine, 683). Through pride and for glory wars are waged, and this type of pride abhors equality with other men under Him; but, instead of His rule, it seeks to impose a rule of its own upon its equals, (Augustine, 689). Augustine would therefore view each war that Charlemagne waged, no matter how just it was, as proof that Charlemagne believed he was greater than those he conquered, and therefore trying to rule over his earthly equals. The remaining portion of Einhards description of Charlemagnes life is filled with grand accounts of Charlemagnes efforts to live a life of piety through a bounty of charity to Gods people and constant worship of God. Augustine believes that life eternal is the supreme good, and although we do not as yet see our good, [we] must therefore live by faith, (Augustine, 676). This faith is prayer and belief in God. In Augustines terms, Charlemagne is living a life that is working towards achieving the supreme good through faith. Charlemagne devoted a portion of his fortune to building churches in Gods name and giving money to Gods people. He built a basilica at his own expensive for the love of God and our Lord Jesus Christ and to honor the mother, the

Morgus 5 holy and eternal virgin, (Einhard, 40). The churches he built are an obvious symbol that Charlemagne spent his life devoted to glorifying God. Einhard also explains that Charlemagne made a point of not only giving in his own country and his own kingdom, but even overseas where he discovered there were a lot of Christians living in poverty, (Einhard, 37). Although Einhards depictions of Charlemagne may be over exaggerated and biased towards his good deeds, Augustine would commend his portrayal of Charlemagnes faith. To be a member of the celestial city, one must know that one God only was to be worshipped, and Einhard puts a lot of effort into making Charlemagnes faith in the one true God show (Augustine, 696). While neither character lived a life that St. Augustine would define as pure and worthy of complete citizenship of the celestial city, both Beowulf and Charlemagne have specific characteristics that are commendable alongside members of the city of God. In Augustines analysis of the stories of each of the characters, the biggest flaw he would analyze is the definition of peace attained in their societies. In both the world of Beowulf and Charlemagne, the protagonists seek an earthly peace, which, according to Augustine, accurately represents the lives of those in the earthly city. The heavenly city, on the other hand, makes use of this peace only because it must, until this mortal condition which necessitates it shall pass away, (Augustine, 695). It is hard for any character to live up to the standards that Augustine preaches in City of God, but both Charlemagne and Beowulf personify some of the great flaws of the earthly city. Both of these earthly kings and heroes would have a tough time meeting Augustines standards to qualify for entrance into the supreme good of life eternal found in the city of God.

Morgus 6 Works Cited Augustine. The City of God. Trans. Marcus Dods. New York: Modern Library, 1950. Print. Heaney, Seamus, trans. Beowulf: A Verse Translation. Ed. Daniel Donoghue. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2002. Print. Einhard, and Notker. Two Lives of Charlemagne,. Trans. David Ganz. London: Penguin, 2008. Print.