(?1090 - 1142)

 Hugh of St. Victor:  13th c. Engl. ms. illum.

(English tr, based on: The Didascalion of Hugh of St. Victor, tr. Jerome Taylor,
(Columbia U.Pr., 1968), pp. 132-133; Latin Text in PL 176,











THERE are four things in which the life of the just is now practiced and raised, as it were by certain steps, to its future perfection - namely,

Quatuor sunt in quibus nunc exercetur vita justorum, et quasi per quosdam gradus ad futuram perfectionem sublevatur, videlicet

  reading or instruction,



           and work[s]

  lectio sive doctrina, 




Then follows a fifth, contemplation, in which, as by a sort of fruit of the preceding steps, one has a foretaste, even of this life, of what the future reward of good work is.  It is because of this foretaste that the Psalmist, when speaking of the judgments of God and commending them, immediately adds: In keeping these there is a great reward

Quinta deinde sequitur contemplatio, in qua quasi quodam praecedentium fructu in hac vita etiam quae sit boni operis merces futura praegustatur.  Unde Psalmista cum de judiciis Dei loqueretur commendans ea statim subjunxit: In custodiendis retributio multa est (Psal. xviii).

OF  these five steps, the first, that is, reading, belongs to beginners; the highest, that is, contemplation, to those who are perfect.  As to the middle steps, the more of these one ascends, the more perfect he will be.  For example:

De his quinque gradibus primus gradus, id est lectio incipientium ets; supremus, id est contemplatio perfectorum.  Et de mediis quidem quanto plures quis ascenderit, tanto perfectior erit; verba gratia:

the first, reading, gives understanding;

Prima lectio intelligentiam dat

the second, meditation, provides counsel;

secunda meditatio consilium praestat,

the third, prayer, makes petition;

tertia oratio petit,

the fourth, work[s], goes seeking;

quarta operatio quaerit,

the fifth, contemplation, finds.

quinta contemplatio invenit.

IF, therefore, you are reading and you have understanding and you already know what must be done, this is the beginning of the good for you, but it is not yet enough; you are not yet perfect. 

Si ergo legis et intelligentiam habes et nosti jam quid faciendum sit, initium boni est, sed adhuc tibi non sufficit; nondum perfectus es. 

And so, mount into the ark of counsel and meditate on how you may be able to fulfill what you have learned must be done.

Scande itaque in arcem consilii, et meditare qualiter implere valeas, quod faciendum esse didicisti.

      For there are many who have knowledge, but few who know in the way it behooves them to know. 

Multi enim scientiam habent, sed pauci sunt qui noverint qualiter scire oporteat. 

     Further, since the counsel of man is weak and ineffective without divine aid, arouse yourself to prayer and ask the help of him without whom you can accomplish no good thing,

Rursus quoniam consilium hominis sine divino auxilio infirmum est et inefficax, ad orationem erigere; et eijus adjutorium, pete, sine quo nullum potest facere bonum,

so that by his grace, which, going before you has enlightened you, he may guide your feet, as you follow, onto the road of peace (Lk.1:79) ; and so that he may bring that which as yet is in your will alone, to concrete effort in good works.

ut videlicet ipsius gratia, quae praeveniendo te illuminavit, subsequendo etiam pedes tuos dirigat in viam pacis; (Lk.1:79) et quod in sola adhuc voluntate est, ad effectum perducat bonae operationis.


IT then remains for you to gird yourself for good work,

Deinde restat tibi ut ad bonum opus accingaris,

so that what you have sought through praying

ut quod orando petis,

you may merit to receive in through working.

operando accipere merearis,

God wishes to work with you;

tecum operari vult Deus;

you are not forced, but you are helped.

non cogeris, sed juvaris.

If you work (are) alone,

Si solus to operaris,

you accomplish nothing;

nil perficis;

if God alone works,

si solus Deus operatur

you have no merit.

nil mereris

Therefore, may God work in order

Operetur ergo Deus ut possis,

that you may be able to work; and do you also work in order that you may have some merit.

opereris et tu aliquiut merearis.

Good work is the road by which one travels toward life.

Via est operatio bona, qua itur ad vitam.

He who travels this road

Qui viam hanc currit,

is in quest of life.

vitam quaerit.

Take courage and act manfully (Josh 1:18).  This road has its reward: whenever we become fatigued by [our journey’s] labor, we are enlightened by the grace of an attentiveness from on high, and we “taste and see that the Lord is sweet”(Ps 33).  And so what was said above comes to pass: [namely,]

Confortare et viriliter age.  Habet haec via praemium suum, quoties ejus laboribus fatigati superne respectus gratia illustramur, gustantes et videntes quonium suavis est Dominus (Ps 33).  Sicque fit quod supradictum eum,

what prayer asks,

quod oratio quaerit,

     contemplation finds.

contemplatio invenit

YOU see, then, how perfection comes to those ascending by means of these steps,

Vides igitur quomodo per hos gradus ascendentibus perfectio occurrit,

so that he who has remained below

ut qui infra remanserit,

cannot be perfect.

perfectus esse non possit.

Our objective, therefore ought to be always to keep ascending; but because the instability of of our life is such that we are not able to hold fast in one place, we are forced often to review the things we have done, and, in order not to lose the condition in which we now stand, we now and again repeat what we have been over before.

Propositum ergo nobis debet esse semper ascendere; sed quoniam tanta est mutabilitas vitae nostrae, ut in eodem stare non possimus, cogimur saepe ad transacta respicere; et ne amittamus illud in quo sumus, repetimus quandoque quod transivimus;

FOR example:

verbi gratia:

the man who is vigorous in his work

Qui in opere strenuus est,

prays lest he grow weak;

orat ne deficiat.

the man who is constant in his prayers

Qui precibus insistit

meditates on what should be prayed for, lest he offend in prayer;

ne orando offendat meditatur quid orandum sit;

and the man who sometimes feels less confidence in his own counsel,

et qui aliquando in proprio consilio minus confidit,

seeks advice in his reading.

lectionem consulit,

AND thus it turns out that

et sic evenit

though we always have the will to ascend,

ut cum ascendendi nobis semper sit voluntas,

nevertheless we are sometimes forced by necessity to descend

descendere tamen aliquando cogat necessitas;

- in such a way, however, that our goal lies in that will and not in this necessity.

ita tamen ut in voluntate non necessitate propositum nostrum consistat.

That we ascend is our goal;

Quod ascendimus propositum est,

that we descend is for the sake of this goal.

quod descendimus praeter propositum.

Not the latter, therefore, but the former

Non hoc ergo, sed illud

ought to be the principal thing.

principale esse debet.












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