Monday, December 21, 2015

"Columba aspexit" by Hildegard of Bingen, translated by Peter Dronke

Columba aspexit

[original text in Latin]

Columba aspexit
per cancellos fenestrae,
ubi ante faciem eius
sudando sudavit balsamum
de lucido Maximino.

Calor solis exarsit
et in tenebras resplenduit,
unde gemma surrexit
in edificatione templi
purissimi cordis benivoli.

Iste, turris excelsa
de ligno Libani et cipresso facta,
iacincto et sardio ornata est,
urbs precellens artes
aliorum artificum.

Ipse, velox cervus,
cucurrit ad fontem purissime aque
fluentis de fortissimo lapide,
qui dulcia aromata irrigavit.

O pigmentarii!
qui estis in suavissima viriditate
hortorum regis,
ascendentes in altum
quando sanctum sacrificium
in arietibus perfecistis:

Inter vos fulget hic artifex,
paries templi,
qui desideravit alas aquile,
osculando nutricem Sapientiam
in gloriosa fecunditate

O Maximine,
mons et vallis es,
et in utroque alta
edificatio appares,
ubi capricornus
cum elephante exivit,
et Sapientia
in deliciis fuit.

Tu es fortis et suavis
in cerimoniis
et in choruscatione altaris,
ascendens ut fumus aromatum
ad columpnam laudis:

Ubi intercedis pro populo
qui tendit ad speculum lucis,
cui laus est in altis.

[English translation by Peter Dronke]

1a.   The dove peered in
        through the latticed window,
        where before her gaze
        raining, a balm rained down
        from the brightness of Maximinus.

1b.   The sun’s heat blazed
        and streamed into the darkness
        from which blossomed the gem
        —in the building of the temple—
        of the purest generous heart.

2a.   He, the sublime tower
        made of Lebanon’s tree,
        made of cypress,
        is decked with jacinth and sardonyx,
        city that no architect’s skill can match.

2b.   He, the swift hart
        ran up to the fountain
        of purest water
        bubbling from the mightiest stone
        whose moisture made the sweet perfumes flow.

3a.   You perfumers
        who live in the gentlest greenness
        of the king’s gardens,
        you who mount into the heights
        when you have consummated
        the holy sacrifice among the rams,

3b.   Lucent among you
        is this architect, wall of the temple,
        he who longed
        for an eagle’s wings as he kissed
        his foster-mother, Wisdom,
        in Ekklesia’s glorious fecundity!

4a.   Maximinus, you are mountain and valley,
        and in both you appear, a pinnacle,
        where the mountain-goat walked, and the elephant,
        and Wisdom played in her delight.

4b.   You are both brave and gentle;
        in the rites and in the sparkling of the altar
        you mount as a smoke of fragrant spices
        to the column of praise

5.    Where you plead the cause of your people
       who aspire to the mirror of light
       for which there is praise on high.

Source of the text in Latin: Fiona Maddocks, Hildegard of Bingen: The Woman of Her Age.  New York: Doubleday, 2001, p. 195-197.

Source of the English translation: The Medieval Lyric, Third Edition, edited by Peter Dronke.  Suffolk, England: D.S. Brewer, 1996, p. 76-77.

TJB: 9 ways of looking at a saint. This hagiography-verse uses great moving-image-scenes: the saint as tower, deer, lush mountain, altar-smoke.

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