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I am a medievalist and an adjunct college instructor in the humanities at Union College. My research includes medieval theologies of history, text/image relationships in visionary and mystical texts, and the writings of the twelfth-century Doctor of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen. I am also a translator of medieval Latin and German texts, especially as relate to my research. My translation of Hildegard's Book of Divine Works is available from Catholic University of America Press here. I completed a Master's in Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2010, a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany in 2008, and a B.A. in Classics and German at Boston College in 2007.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

DaH ll. 663-854: I must myself to God ordain

The maiden responds to her parents' pleas, offering both practical and theological arguments to support her decision to sacrifice herself, including a beautiful comparison of life in Heaven with life on their farm. If you are interested, the full Middle High German text can be found here, and an online knowledge database can also be found here.

Once again, any and all feedback is requested and welcomed.

Introduction & lines 1-132
Lines 133-162
Lines 163-232
Lines 233-348
Lines 349-458
Lines 459-542
Lines 543-662

“In thee, O mother, I believe
And father mine, that I receive
665 From you all grace’s loving pure,
With which a father and mother
Their child should grant, afford, and grace,
As have I found to be the case
From you at ev’ry passing day.
670 For have I by your grace’s way
My soul and a fine body fair.
Me man and woman praised declare,
All they who catch a sight of me,
That I the fairest child be
675 That in their lives they’ve seen so fine.
To whom should I the grace assign,
But to you two, though after God?
So ought I by your order’s prod
E’er gladly stand, abiding true.
680 How great my duty is thereto!
O mother, blessèd woman thou,
Because my soul and body now
Have I from your grace’s present,
So let it be with your consent
685 That I may cut them both away,
Removèd from the Devil’s sway,
And must myself to God ordain.
Yea, ‘tis the life of this world’s reign
None other than the soul’s privation.
690 The worldly pleasure’s strong temptation
Hath not as yet upon me borne,
Which leadeth hence to Hell-fire’s scorn.
Now shall I God give thanks and praise
That He hath in my young, short days
695 For me good sense of mind affirmed,
That I this languid life infirm
Regard of very small concern.
So will I, pure, myself return
And to the pow’r of God succumb.
700 I fear, should agèd I become,
That me worldly seduction sweet
Would drag and tear beneath her feet,
As hath she pulled so many strayed,
Whom, too, her sweetness hath betrayed;
705 So simply would be God denied.
To Him it must be ever sighed
That I should live to see the morn.
No comfort found, this world I scorn.
Its comfort is a hardship great,
710 Its greatest joy a sorrow’s weight,
Its sweet reward a bitter woe,
Its lengthy life death’s sudden blow.
We’ve nothing else more sure than so:
Today success and ‘morrow woe
715 And in the end e’er death’s oppress:
This is a wretched, grim distress.
No aid from birth, nor goods’ defense,
Nor beauty, strength, high spirits’ sense;
The virtues and high honour aid
720 No more against dark death’s cold shade
Than lowly birth and vice uncouth.
Our life and our so vital youth
Is but the dust and shadows brief;
Our firmness trembleth as a leaf.
725 He is a fool, queer and perverse,
Who doth himself in smoke immerse,
Be it a man or woman then,
Who cannot this bethink and ken
And climbeth up the worldly rung,
730 For o’er the stinking, rotten dung
Is spread for us the costly silk.
Whome’er this dazzle now doth bilk,
He is to Hell’s hot furnace born
And hath no less than this forlorn:
735 His body and his soul above.
Be mindful, blessed woman, of
Your mother’s promised loyalty
And soften now your sorrow’s plea,
Which have ye now for mine own sake.
740 So, too, my father thought doth take:
I know he willeth my health’s part.
He is a man so ably smart
That well doth he discern, that ye
Cannot for long have yet with me
745 Your joy divine and gladness main,
E’en if I yet alive remain.
Abide I without husband here
With you for two or e’en three year,
Then is my master likely dead
750 And come we in distress so dread
By poverty’s quite easy way,
That ye could not such dowry pay
To any man for me enough,
That I must live so poorly rough
755 That ye would rather I be dead.
But let us not speak of such dread,
Such that be us no trouble’s fear
And with us should my lord so dear
Extend his stay and so long live,
760 ‘Till one me to a man could give,
Who wealthy be and noble fit:
Then hath it been as wish ye it
And hope for me well should it be.
Else hath my mind advisèd me.
765 Be he my dear, this is distress;
Be he my sorrow, death’s oppress:
So always have I suff’ring’s blight
And am complete with hardship’s plight
Cut off from comfort’s easy type
770 By matters of a many stripe
That trouble women and dismay
And lead them from their joys astray.
Now me that full provision lend,
Which there ne’er cometh to an end.
775 A Farmer Free doth for me yearn,
To Whom I well my life return.
Indeed, to Him ye should me give,
Thus well supported shall I live.
His plow is very light to pull,
780 His house of all supply is full.
There neither horse nor cattle die,
There troubleth none the children’s cry,
There not too warm and not too cold,
There none become of long years old
785 (Become the aged younger still),
There neither frost nor hunger shrill,
There none of any kind of pain,
There ev’ry joy without the strain.
To Him will I myself outstretch
790 And flee from such a farm, the wretch,
Which hail and thunderstorm doth beat
And wash away doth flooding fleet,
With which we fight and e’er have fought.
Whate’er a man through long year’s lot
795 Can struggle for and lay away,
‘Tis lost in but a half a day.
This farm, I will leave it behind:
It be by me cursed and maligned.
Ye love me—that is decorous.
800 Now shall I gladly see it thus,
That your love be not love’s offence.
If ye can with right mindful sense
Discern my case and with your wit,
And if ye grant me and permit
805 Possessions and the honour’s trim,
Then let me turn myself to Him,
To Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Aid,
Whose grace is so steadfastly laid,
That it no end doth e’er endure,
810 And, too, hath He for me, though poor,
A love as great and as serene
As hath He for a high-born queen.
I should by mine own fault’s offense
Out of your favour’s countenance
815 Ne’er come, God will it and God speed.
‘Tis surely his command decreed
That I be subject you unto
Because I have my life from you:
This render I without regret.
820 My loyalty I should not yet
Transgress, which to myself I owe.
I’ve always heard the saying go:
Whoe’er doth so another glad
That he himself becometh sad,
825 And who with praise doth other crown
And his own honour deep doth drown,
His staunchness be too great indeed.
How much I will for you this heed,
That you I loyalty afford,
830 But most of all myself accord!
Will ye from me salvation steal,
Then would I rather let you feel
Awhile for me the flowing tear
Than that that be in me unclear,
835 Which to myself in charge I owe.
I always thither will to go
Where I shall joy in fullness find.
Ye have indeed more children kind:
Let them your joy and flower be
840 And comfort you because of me.
Not one can bar me or impede:
To health I verily will lead
Myself and my lord master dear.
Yea, mother, I before did hear
845 Thee speaking and lamenting so,
‘Twould cause thy heart great pain and woe,
Shouldst thou stand o’er my earthy tomb.
Thou wouldst be free yet of such doom:
Above my grave thou standest not,
850 For where I meet my death, my lot,
To see that none will suffer thee:
‘Twill happen in Salerno’s lee.
852a There shall this death release us four
852b From ev’ry kind of suff’ring sore.
Through this, my death, be saved will we,
And I far better still than ye.”

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