The Versified Life of Saint Francis (after 1283) - 78 

The Versified Life of Saint Francis
Additions, Amplifications in Light
of The Major Legend


Any number of virtuous and knowledgeable men, motivated by devotion to the saint and by his distinguished achievements, have taken the trouble to write the story of the most blessed father Francis, Christ's standard-bearer and Levite, and object of wonder for signs and miracles of power. With a fuller discovery of facts, however, Brother Bonaventure, General Minister of the Order of Lesser Brothers, is one who assumed the task. A man of good name, privileged as he was with varied graces, he was devoted to God, and the world respected him highly for his knowledge and religious spirit. Formerly an outstanding master of theology at Paris, he afterwards became a cardinal bishop of the holy Roman Church, and to this day his teachings and writings illumine the universal Church. In a truly original prose, he wove the historical course of the saint's entire life, and his commendable celebration of a saint is a worthy praise of God, who gave him the grace.

Now it appears that Master Henry, a man of profound learning, as his style shows, at a prelate's insistence produced this life in verse; with certain additions, derived mostly from the aforesaid cardinal's words, an altered form of it gives it completion. Many things included by others find no mention in Henry, while he does cite some things they omit; just as in the gospels, what one of the Evangelists passes over, is mentioned by another. He dedicates his work, as to a high dignitary, to the most holy father, the lord pope Gregory IX, of whom, among so many other things, it is told that, with utmost dignity and purpose and exceptional courage, he washed the feet of lepers and paupers, disguising his papal identity in the habit of a Lesser Brother, and that when he was dying he was found wearing a chain and a hair shirt. Henry forms the pope's name out of the initial letters of the fourteen divisions of the work.

When it was pointed out to him that the word "charity" was awkward in a metric system,a he maintained that the pagan poets, whose




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 78