Saturday, June 14, 2008

Light Reading

I've been reading (very slowly) the book, Medieval Women's Visionary Literature, ed. by Elizabeth Alvilda Petroff. The anthology covers an impressive number of different styles and a long time period, roughly 1300 years, so I'm never sure what to expect next when I turn the page.

Here's an excerpt (by no means typical except in its excellence) from The Flowing Light of the Godhead, written by Mechthild of Magdeburg (1207-1282; Germany), translated by Lucy Menzies. I wrote in an earlier post about Marguerite Porete. Both of these women, Marguerite and Mechthild were Beguines. If you're 'into' European literature of this period, you'll recognize the style of amour courtois in Mechthild's writing.

5. Of the torment and reward of Hell

My body is in long torment, my soul in high delight, for she has seen and embraced her Beloved. Through Him, alas for her! she suffers torment. As He draws her to Himself, she gives herself to Him. She cannot hold back and so He takes her to Himself. Gladly would she speak but dares not. She is engulfed in the glorious Trinity in high union. He gives her a brief respite that she may long for Him. She would fain sing His praises but cannot. She would that He might send her to Hell, if only He might be loved above all measure by all creatures. She looks at Him and says, "Lord! Give me Thy blessing!" He looks at her and draws her to Him with a greeting the body may not know--

Thus the body speaks to the soul
"Where hast thou been? I can bear this no more!"
And the soul replies "Silence! Thou art a fool!
I will be with my Love
Even shouldst thou never recover!
I am His joy; He is my torment--"

This is her torment,
Never must she recover from it
But must ever endure it
And never escape it.

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