Letter xxv. (Circa A. D. 1127) to the Same
To the Same

Bernard, being hindered by many occupations, has not yet been able to find time to satisfy his wishes, and is obliged even to write to him very briefly. He forbids a certain one of his treatises to be made public unless it were read over and corrected.

1. I pass over now my want of experience, my humble profession, or rather my profession of humility, nor do I shelter myself behind (I do not say my lowness, but, at least) my mediocrity of position or name, since whatever I should allege of that kind you would declare to be rather a pretext for delay than a reasonable excuse. It seems to me that you interpret my shyness and modesty at your will, now as indiscretion, now, as false humility, and now as real pride. Of these reasons, therefore, since they would appear doubtful to you, I say nothing. Only I wish that your friendship should be fully convinced of one thing, that since the departure of your messenger (not the one who carries this letter, but the other) left me I have not had a single instant of leisure to do what you asked, so busy are my days and so short my nights. Even now your latest letter has found me so engrossed that it would take me too long to write to you the mere occupations, which would be my excuse with you. I have scarcely been able even to read your letter through, except during my dinner, for at that hour it was delivered to me, and scarcely have I been able to write back to you these few words hastily and, as it were, furtively. You will see that you must not complain of the brevity of my letter.

2. To speak the truth, my dear Oger, I am forced to be angry with all these cares, and that on your account, although in them, as my conscience bears witness, I desire to serve only charity, by the requirements of which, as I am debtor both to the wise and to the unwise, I have been made unable as yet to satisfy your wishes. What, then? Does Charity deny to you what you ask in the name of Charity? You have requested and begged, you have knocked at the door, and Charity has rendered your requests unavailing. Why are you angry with me? It is Charity whom you must be angry with, if you will and dare to be so, since it is she who is the cause that you have not obtained what you expected to have by her means. Already she is displeased at my long discourse, and is angry with you who have imposed it. Not that the ardour with which you do this is displeasing to her, since it is she which has inspired you with it, but she wishes that your zeal should be ruled according to knowledge, and that you should be careful not to hinder greater things for the sake of lesser. You see how unwillingly I am torn away from writing to you at greater length, since the pleasure of conversing with you, and the wish to satisfy you, make me troublesome to my mistress, Charity, who has long since been bidding me to make an end, and I am not yet silent. How wide is the matter for reply in your letter, if it were permissible to do as you would wish, and as I, too, should, perhaps, be well enough pleased to do! But she who requires otherwise of me is mistress, or rather is the Master. For God is charity (1 S. John iv.16), and it is very evident that such is her authority, that I ought to obey her rather than either myself or you. And since it is incumbent on Charity to obey God rather than men, I unwillingly, and with grief, put off for a time the doing what you ask, not refuse altogether to do it, and I fear in endeavouring humbly to respond to your desires to appear to wish, under the pretext of a pretended humility, which is only pure pride, to revolt here below, I, who am only a miserable worm of the earth, against the strength of that power which, as you truly declare, rules even the Angels in heaven.

3. As for the little treatise which you ask for, I had asked for it back again from the person to whom I had lent it, even before your messenger came to me, but I have not yet received it; but I will take care that at all events when you come here, if you are ever coming, you shall find it here, see and read it, but not transcribe it. For that other treatise which you mention that you have transcribed I had sent to you to be read, indeed, but not to be copied; and I do not know to what good purpose or for whose good you can have done it. In sending it to you I did not intend that the Abbot of S. Thierry should have it, [39] and I had not bidden you to send it; but I am not displeased that you have done so. For why should I be afraid that my little book should pass under his eyes, under whose gaze I would willingly spread my whole soul if I were able? But, alas! why does the mention of so good a man present itself at such a time of hurried discourse, when it is not permitted to me to linger, as would be fitting, and converse with you about that excellent man, when I ought already to have come to the end of my letter? I entreat you to make an opportunity of going to see him, and do not give out my book to be read or copied until you shall have gone over the whole of it with him; read it then together and correct what in it needs correction, that every word in it may have the support of two witnesses. After that, I commit to the judgment of each of you whether it be expedient that it should be shown publicly, or only to a few persons, or to some particular person only, or not at all to any one. And I make you judge equally if that little preface [40] which you have fitted to the same out of fragments from other letters of mine should stand as it is, or whether another fitter one should be composed.

4. But I had almost forgotten that you complained at the beginning of your letter that I had accused you of falsehood. I do not clearly recollect whether I ever said that; but if I said anything like it (for I should prefer to think that I had forgotten rather than that your messenger had falsely reported) do not doubt that it was spoken in joke, and not seriously. Can I have even thought that you had used levity and were capable of trifling with your word? Far from me be such a suspicion of you, who have from your youth been happy in bearing the yoke of truth, and when I find in you a gravity of character beyond your years. Nor am I so simple as to see a falsehood in a word artlessly spoken with out duplicity of heart; nor so indifferent as to have forgotten either the project which you have long since formed or the obstacle which hinders its realization.


[39] He is here, without doubt, speaking of the Apology to the Abbot William. Oger was at Clairvaux while Bernard was writing it, as appears from the last words of that work. But as he left before the final touches were put to it, Bernard afterwards sent it to him for perusal; and he, without direction, communicated it to Abbot William, to whom it was inscribed, and to whom Bernard intended to send it.

[40] This little preface is the Letter addressed to the same William, and counted the 85th among the Letters of S. Bernard; it is placed at the head of the Apology.

letter xxiv circa a d 1126
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