Anselm’s life was drawing to its close. The re-enactment and confirmation by the authority of the great Whitsuntide Assembly of the canons of the Synod of London against clerical marriage, and a dispute with two of the Northern bishops—his old friend Ralph Flambard, and the archbishop-elect of York, who, apparently reckoning on Anselm’s age and bad health, was scheming to evade the odious obligation of acknowledging the paramount claims of the see of Canterbury—were all that marked the last year of his life. A little more than a year before his own death, he had to bury his old and faithful friend—a friend first in the cloister of Bee, and then in the troubled days of his English primacy—the great builder, Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester. Anselm’s last days shall be told in the words of one who had the best right to record the end of him whom he had loved so simply and so loyally—his attendant Eadmer.
“During these events (of the last two years of his life) he wrote a treatise ’Concerning the Agreement of Foreknowledge, Predestination, and the Grace of God, with Free Will,’ in which contrary to his wont, he found difficulty in composition; for after his illness at Bury St. Edmund’s, as long as he was spared to this life, he was weaker than before; so that, when he was moving from place to place, he was from that time carried in a litter, instead of riding on horseback. He was tried, also, by frequent and sharp sicknesses, so that we scarce dared promise him life. He, however, never left off his old way of living, but was always engaged in godly meditations, or holy exhortations, or other good work.
“In the third year after King Henry had recalled him from his second banishment, every kind of food by which nature is sustained became loathsome to him. He used to eat, however, putting force on himself, knowing that he could not live without food; and in this way he somehow or another dragged on life through half a year, gradually failing day by day in body, though in vigour of mind he was still the same as he used to be. So being strong in spirit, though but very feeble in the flesh, he could not go to his oratory on foot; but from his strong desire to attend the consecration of the Lord’s body, which he venerated with a special feeling of devotion, he caused himself to be carried thither every day in a chair. We who attended on him tried to prevail on him to desist, because it fatigued him so much; but we succeeded, and that with difficulty, only four days before he died.
“From that time he took to his bed? and, with gasping breath, continued to exhort all who had the privilege of drawing near him to live to God, each in his own order. Palm Sunday had dawned, and we, as usual, were sitting round him; one of us said to him, ’Lord father, we are given to understand that you are going to leave the world for your Lord’s Easter court.’ He answered, ’If His will be so, I shall gladly obey His will. But