Chapter 4.20

<Hymnus dē illā>

Vidētur opportūnum huic historiae etiam hymnum virginitātis īnserere, quem ante annōs plūrimōs in laudem ac praecōnium eiusdem rēgīnae ac spōnsae Chrīstī (et ideō vērāciter rēgīnae quia spōnsae Chrīstī) elegiacō metrō composuimus, et imitārī mōrem sacrae scrīptūrae, cuius historiae carmina plūrima indita—et haec metrō ac versibus cōnstat esse composita.

Alma Deus trīnitās, quae saecula cūncta gubernās,

adnue iam coeptīs, alma Deus trīnitās.

Bella Marō resonet; nōs pācis dōna canāmus,

mūnera nōs Chrīstī, bella Marō resonet.

Carmina casta mihi, fēdae nōn raptus Helēnae; 5

luxus erit lūbricīs, carmina casta mihi.

Dōna superna loquar, miserae nōn proelia Troiae;

terra quibus gaudet, dōna superna loquar.

Ēn Deus altus adit venerandae virginis alvum,

līberet ut hominēs, ēn Deus altus adit. 10

Fēmina virgo parit mundī dēvōta parentem,

porta Marīa Deī, fēmina virgo parit.

Gaudet amīca cohors dē virgine mātre Tonantis;

virginitāte micāns gaudet amīca cohors.

Huius honor genuit castō dē germine plūrēs, 15

virgineōs flōrēs huius honor genuit.

Ignibus usta ferīs virgō nōn cessit Agathē,

Eulalia et perfert ignibus usta ferīs.

Kasta ferās superat mentis prō culmine Tecla,

Eufemia sacrās kasta ferās superat. 20

Laeta ridet gladiōs ferrō rōbustior Agnēs,

Caecilia īnfēstōs laeta ridet gladiōs.

Multus in orbe viget per sōbria corda triumphus,

sōbrietātis amor multus in orbe viget.

Nostra quoque ēgregia iam tempora virgo beāvit; 25

Aedilthryda nitet nostra quoque ēgregia.

Orta patre eximiō, rēgālī et stemmate clārā,

nōbilior Dominō est, orta patre eximiō.

Percipit inde decus rēgīnae, et scēptra sub astrīs;

plūs super astra manēns percipit inde decus. 30

Quid petis, alma, virum, spōnsō iam dēdita summō?

spōnsus adest Chrīstus; quid petis, alma, virum?

Rēgis ut aethereī mātrem iam, crēdo, sequāris,

tū quoque sīs māter rēgis ut aethereī.

Spōnsa dicāta Deō bis sex rēgnāverat annīs, 35

inque monastēriō est spōnsa dicāta Deō.

Tōta sacrāta polō celsīs ubi flōruit āctīs

reddidit atque animam tōta sacrāta polō.

Virginis alma carō est tumulāta bis octo Novembrēs,

nec putet in tumulō virginis alma carō. 40

Xristē, tuī est operis quia vestis et ipsa sepulchrō

inviolāta nitet: Xristē, tuī est operis.

Ydros et āter abit sacrae prō vestis honōre;

morbī diffugiunt, ydros et āter abit.

Zēlus in hoste furit, quondam quī vīcerat Ēvam; 45

virgo triumphat ovāns, zēlus in hoste furit.

Aspice, nūpta Deō, quae sit tibi glōria terrīs;

quae maneat caelīs aspice, nūpta Deō.

Mūnera laeta capis, fēstīvīs fulgida taedīs;

ecce venit spōnsus, mūnera laeta capis. 50

Et nova dulcisonō modulāris carmina plēctrō,

spōnsā hymnō exultās et nova dulcisonō.

Nūllus ab altithronī comitātū sēgregat Agnī,

quam affectū tulerat nūllus ab altithrōnī.

BEDE'S HYMN IN PRAISE OF VIRGINITY

Bede's poem in honor of St. Æthelthryth is an alphabetical acrostic poem, or abecedarian, composed in elegiac couplets. Each couplet begins with a sequential letter of the alphabet, and the first letters of the last four couplets spell out AMEN. The phrase at the end of the second line of each couplet echoes the phrase at the beginning of the first line. Elegiac couplets of this kind came to be known as "serpentine" or "reciprocal" elegiacs (see Plummer ii.242).

Several Hebrew acrostic poems are included in the Old Testament, including Psalm 119 (118 in the Vulgate). The closest Biblical model for this kind of poem is Proverbs 31:10–31, which in the original Hebrew is an abecedarian, and which is an encomium of "a woman of noble character," or an ideal wife. Bede praises a woman of noble character of another sort: the Christian martyr and saint.

For a book-length treatment of Bede's hymn, see Harris 2016.

PREFACE

Vidētur opportunum: “It seems like a good time to,” leading to two infinitives, īnserere and imitārī. The syntax then breaks slightly for the last clause. See articulated text.

ideō vērāciter regīnae quia: “truly a queen because”

cuius historiae carmina plūrima indita: “into the history of which a number of poems have been inserted”

et haec metrō ac versibus cōnstat esse conposita: “these too, as is well-known, were written in verse.” Bede defends his own artistic choice with reference to Biblical precedents. For the impersonal constat of well known, established facts, see LS, consto II.B.2.

THE HYMN

(1) alma ... Trinitās: in apposition to Deus: “God, the blessed Trinity…”

(2) adnue iam coeptīs: an echo of Vergil, Georgics 1.40 and Aeneid 9.625

(3) Marō: Vergil. Bede is referring to the Aeneid.

(5) fēdae: foedae > foedus -a -um, “foul, sordid.” Bede himself (incorrectly, from our point of view) argued in his grammatical works for spelling the word with a long e so as to distinguish it from the honomymous noun foedus, foederis n., “pact” (see TLL 6.1.998.82).

nōn raptus Helēnae: raptus is a noun ("abduction"), and is contrasted with the carmina casta that Bede composes: "chaste songs are for me, not the rape of foul Helen."

(6) lubricīs: dative of possession (AG 373), parallel with mihi (dative of reference, AG 376)

(8) quibus: ablative, with gaudet (“in which the earth rejoices”)

(11) fēmina virgō … dēvōta: take virgō dēvōta in apposition to fēmina: “a woman, a devout virgin”

(12) porta Maria Deī: take porta Deī in apposition to Maria: “Mary, God’s gate”

(13) Tonantis: “of the Thunderer,” with amīca cohors. Tonāns, “Thunderer,” is an epithet of Jupiter, and is used occasionally by Christian poets, especially Prudentius, for God.

(17) Agathē: St. Agatha, a third century martyr, who was sentenced to be burned at the stake.

(18) Eulalia: St. Eulalia of Mérida, another third century martyr who was burned at the stake. See Prudentius, Peristephanon 3.

perfert: “endures”

(19) Kasta: = casta (spelled with a K to preserve the alphabetical order)

prō: “by virtue of”

culmine: “the exalted nature” (= auctoritas, potentia, dignitas, TLL 4.0.1293.14)

Tecla … Eufemia: Thecla and Euphemia, two Greek saints sentenced to death by wild animals in the arena.

(21) Agnes: another third century martyr, Agnes of Rome, the patron saint of chastity. She was killed with a sword. See Prudentius, Peristephanon 14.

(22) Caecilia: St. Cecilia, a second century martyr, the patron saint of music.

(25) nostra … egregia: nostra modifies tempora (“our age”), egregia (“excellent”) modifies virgō.

(27) rēgālī et stemmate clārā: = rēgālī et clārā stemmate

(28) nōbilior Dominō: Dominō cannot be an ablative of comparison (“more noble than the Lord”), so it must be dative: “more noble for the Lord

(30) manēns: “waiting for,” taking the direct object plūs

(31) quid: “why?”

dēdita: modifying the subject of petis, in apposition

(33) rēgis … sequāris: probably a purpose clause introduced by spōnsus adest Chrīstus in the previous line. Take crēdō as parenthetical: “in order, I believe, to…” Re-order ut (crēdō) iam sequāris matrem rēgis aethereī.

(34) Tū … aethereī: another purpose clause, as in the previous line; re-order: ut tū quoque sis mater rēgis aethereī.

(37) polō: “to heaven” (AG 428.h)

(39) est tumulāta bis octo Novembrēs: “has been buried for sixteen Novembers”; Novembrēs is the accusative of extent of time (AG 423.2)

(40) pūtet: < pūteō -ēre, “to rot”

(41) tuī est operis: predicate genitive: “it is [of] your doing” (AG 343.b–c)

(43) Ydros et āter abit: “and the black serpent departs…” Ydros (pronounced hüdros) = ὕδρος, “hydra, serpent.” To preserve the alphabetical order of the poem, Bede needed a Greek word beginning with Y (upsilon).

(45) Zēlus: “resentment”

(48) maneat: “awaits”

(52) Spōnsa ... dulcisonō: re-order et nova spōnsa (“as a new spouse...”) exultās hymnō dulcisonō

(53) comitātū: ablative of separation (AG 401)

(54) quam ... altithrōnī: re-order quam nūllus tulerat (“carried away”) ab affectū altithōnī.

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