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Sedu'lius, Coe'lius

a Christian poet, who is termed a presbyter by Isidorus of Seville (de Script. Eccles. 100.7), and by Honorius of Autun (de S.E. 3.7). By the writer known as Anonymus Mellicensis (100.35, in the Bibl. Eccles. of Fabricius) he is called an Antistes, a title confirmed by two acrostic panegyrics to be found in the edition of Cellarius, while by Sigebertus of Gembloux (de S.E. 6), and by Trithemius (de S. E. 142) he is designated as a bishop--to which antistes is frequently equivalent--but no one has pretended to discover the see over which he presided. We cannot determine with absolute precision the date either of his birth or of his death, but the period when he flourished may be defined within narrow limits. He refers (Epist. ad Maced.) to the commentaries of Jerome, who died A. D. 420, and is himself praised by Cassiodorus (de Instit. div. let. 27 ; comp. Venant. Fortunat. Carm. 8.1; Vit. S. Martin. 1.15), who was born A. D. 468, and by Pope Gelasius, who presided over the Roman Church from A.D. 492 to A. D. 496. Moreover, his works were collected after his death and published by Asterius, as we learn front a short introductory epigram, to which is added, in some MSS., the note " Hoc opus Sedulius inter chartulas dispersum reliquit : quod recollectum adornatumque ad omnem elegantiam divulgatum est a Turcio Ruiio Asterio V. C. consule ordinario atque patricio." Upon turning to the Fasti we discover that an Asterius was consul along with Protogenes in A. D. 449, and that Turcius Rufus Apronianus Asterius was consul along with Praesidius in A. D. 496. Combining these facts little doubt can be entertained that the latter is the person indicated above, and that we may fix the epoch of Sedulius about A. D. 450. Of his personal history we know nothing whatsoever. By Trithemius (l.c.) indeed he is said to have been a Scot, the disciple of archbishop Hildebert; but this and similar statements arose. it would appear, from confounding three different persons, all ecclesiastics, who bore the same name :--
  • 1. Sedulius, the poet, who belongs, as we have proved, to the fifth century.
  • 2. Sedulius, who, in attaching his signature to the Acts of the Council of Rome, held in A. D. 721, describes himself as " Episcopus Britanniae de genere Scotorum."
  • 3. Sedulius, an Irish Scot, who lived some hundred years later, and compiled from the works of Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, and other celebrated fathers, a commentary upon St. Paul still extant under the title " Sedulii Scoti Iliberniensis in ones epistolas Pauli Collectaneum."


The following pieces by the first of these individuals have descended to us.


Paschale Carmen s. Mirabilium Divinorum Libri V., in heroic measure; to which is prefixed in some MSS. a "Praefatio," in eight elegiac couplets, addressed to the reader, and a " Dedicatio ad Theodosium Augustum," in fifteen hexameters. If the inscription of the latter be genuine, it could not have been written after A. D. 450, for in that year the younger Theodosius died. There is also an introductory epistle addressed to the Abbot Macedonius, at whose request Sedulius had executed a prose version of the above poem. This prose version has been preserved and was published at Paris in 1585 by F. Juret, from a MS. the property of P. Pithou. Sigebertus (l.c.) maintains that the work was first composed in prose and afterwards versified. But this account is directly at variance with the words of the letter. There is some doubt as to the number of books into which the Paschale Carmen ought to be divided. Although the MSS. vary, all the best distribute it into five : the Anonymus Mellicensis (l.c.) states that it consists of two; Isidorus and Honorius (ll. cc.) agree that there are three, one being devoted to the signs and wonders commemorated in the Old Testament, two to the Sacraments and Miracles of Christ. Trithemius (l.c.) expressly names four, and this seems to have been the arrangement contemplated by the author, who thus (Epist. ad Maced.) explains the nature, object, and extent of his undertaking : " Quatuor mirabilium divinorum libellos, quos, et pluribus pauca complexus, usque ad Passionem et Resurrectionem Ascensionemque Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, quatuor Evangelistarum dicta congregans, ordinavi, contra omnes aemulos tuae defensioni commendo. Huic autem operi, favente Deo, Paschalis Carminis nomen imposui quia Pascha nostrum immolatus est Christus." The most easy solution of the difficulty is to be found in the supposition which assigns the disposition of the parts, as they are now exhibited, to the first editor Asterius, who would probably give that form to the scattered papers of the deceased which to him appeared most appropriate, while transcribers, following their own judgment, may have thought fit to introduce changes, and thus have caused the discrepancies and contradictions which we meet with in the historians of ecclesiastical literature. It is not improbable that Sedulius may, at one time, have intended the Miracles of the Old Testament to constitute a separate work, and it may even be urged that the words quoted above apply to the New Testament exclusively.


Veteris et Novi Testamenti Collatio, a sort of hymn containing a collection of texts from the Old and New Testaments, arranged in such a manner as to enable the reader to compare the two dispensations. The metre employed is the elegiac distich and the expressions are arranged with laborious ingenuity in such a way that the first penthemimer of the hexameter, in each couplet, recurs as the last penthemimer of the pentameter : thus

Primus ad ima ruit de luce superbus ;
Sic homo cum tumuit primus ad ima ruit ;

a device to which grammarians have given the name of ἐπανάληψ́ιρ.


Hymnus de Christo, a succinct account of the life and miracles of Christ, from the Incarnation to the Ascension, in Iambic dimeters. The first line begins with the letter A, the fifth line with the letter B, the ninth with C, the thirteenth with D, and so on at intervals of four lines until a complete alphabet has been finished, the whole being wound up by a sort of epilogue in two elegiac distichs.


De Verbi Incarnatione, a Cento Virgilianus, first published in the collection of Martene and Durand front a MS. belonging to the monastery of Corvey on the Weser.

V. Doubtful Epigram

The authenticity of the epigram entitled " De tabula orbis terrarum jussu Theodosii Junioris Imperatoris facta" is more than doubtful. It is to be found in Burmann's Anthologia Latina, 5.115, or No. 274, ed. Meyer; comp. Wernsdorf, Poet. Lat. Min. vol. iv. p. 499.


The merits of Sedulius are altogether of a negative character. Every one admits that he was not destitute of talent. With the exception of several mistakes in quantity, his verse is by no means rough nor inharmonious, and his language, formed upon the model of Virgil, is not devoid of a certain degree of elegance, and cannot be pronounced impure ; his descriptions are not coarse nor exaggerated. His prose, however, presents a singular contrast, the style being in the highest degree harsh and affected, the phraseology and syntax alike barbarous. Such inconsistencies are by no means uncommon among the writers of that epoch, and admit of easy explanation. In verse composition they confined themselves exclusively to the words and expressions which had been stamped by the authority of the poets in the Augustan age, according to the system pursued in the school exercises of modern times, while their prose represented the ordinary language of their own day.

We have already observed that Sedulius was commended by Pope Gelasius, who couched his praise in the following terms (Distinct. 15.3.25) : “Venerabilis viri Sedulii Paschale Opus, quod heroicis descripsit versibus, insigni laude proferimus.” In transcribing the document the word haereticis was accidentally substituted for heroicis, and the error passed undetected in some of the authorised collections of Canons. Hence it came to pass that, for a considerable period, zealous churchmen, and among them Pope Paulus II. and Pope Hadrianus VI., moved by the authority of one so holy, were in the habit of anathematising poets in general, and of declaring that all who meddled with verse, even although the theme might relate to holy things, were heretics and accursed.


The Editio Princeps of Sedulius is a quarto volume, printed at Paris by Badius Ascensius, but without a date; the second edition was published along with Juvencus and others by Aldus, 4to. Venet. 1502. The most elaborate editions are those of Cellarius, 8vo. Hal. 1704 and 1739; of Arntzenius, 4to Leonard. 1761; and of Arevalus, 4to. Rom. 1794.

The different pieces will be found in " Poetarum veterum ecclesiasticc. Opera Christiana" of G. Fabricius, fol. Basil. 1564; in the Bibliotheca Patrum Max. fol. Lugd. 1677, vol. vi. p. 458; in the Corpus Poétarum Lat. of Mattaire, vol. ii. p. 1060; and in the fifth volume of the Collectio Pisaurensis.


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