The Versified Life of Saint Francis  - 426 

church and civil dissent (VII: 151-75). In both the seventh and the eighth books Henri again gives free reign to poetic license as he describes storms at sea in terms that are reminiscent of the classical poets (VII: 176-181; VIII: 15-17). The last of Henri's digressions, found in Book Eight, flows completely from the poet's imagination as he describes the content and the tenor of Francis's preaching before the Sultan, a description in which the saint appears as more of a philosopher than as an evangelist (VIII: 90-180).

The remaining three books are considerably shorter and manifest a selective synthesis of Thomas of Celano's final second and third books (n.91-126). In these last three chapters, the author attempts to bring things to a conclusion and only briefly summarizes the canonization and miracles. However, at the very end of the poem, Henri sings the praise of his patron, Pope Gregory IX, but is far more subdued than Thomas of Celano.

Henri was primarily interested in transforming the text of Thomas of Celano's The Life of Saint Francis into a dramatic poetic recitation. As such it would be safe to presume that Francis of Assisi was not Henri's primary interest; poetry was. He was more eager to use his poetic skills in pleasing his new patron, Pope Gregory IX, than in discovering any new details or insights into the newly canonized saint. This is evident from the acrostic, GREGORIUS NONUS, with which Henri opens each chapter. The first letter of the first word of each of the fourteen chapters taken together will spell out the name Gregory the Ninth.

Theological insight and historical information were not among Henri's goals. From that perspective, The Versified Life of Saint Francis is of lesser value than other subsequent lives. Its value is in its poetic drama as Henri portrays the new saint as a new Aeneid and stirs the imagination of his readers. In the language of the Roman classics, the poet attempts to open the inner struggle of the saint's heart, the mystery within his soul, and the heroic spirit that animated him. Although Henri follows the lines of Thomas of Celano's original prose, he rarely transports a continuous statement from his The Life of Saint Francis and only sparingly does he use Thomas of Celano's vocabulary. Curiously, Henri quotes scripture in a manner different than other religious writers of the period, such as Thomas of Celano. Whereas Scriptures are integral to the flow of contemporary lives of the saints, undoubtedly influences of a spirituality centered on the monastic Lectio Divina, Henri's use of Scripture is more reflective of his poetic attempts to embellish the text.

A brief paragraph of four verses introduces the theme or content of each chapter, and these verses reflect his poetic intention for the chapter. In the first chapter, for example, the first line echoes Vergil's Aeneid.12 Henri's interpretation focuses on Francis's sanctity and miracles and, because of them, makes him a hero of epic proportions. Employing citations from the ancient poets, Henri presents a Francis who is a hero greater than Alexander the Great and greater than Caesar. He most frequently turns to the works of Ovid and then to Vergil, Horace and other classical Latin authors. These citations are short and cryptic,




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, p. 426