These stanzas are translated from selected
stanzas of "Marie Carmina." The Latin is in
A.G. Rigg, ed. The Poems of Walter of Wimborne.
Toronto: Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies,
1978, pp. 188-277. Latin for the stanzas is given at
the end of the translation. (The numbers are linked
to the Latin.)
The poet proposes
to turn his rude skills to the composition of a poem
in praise of Mary, whom he addresses. After a lengthy
Inexpressibility topos, he drops his pen for fear of
his task. But when Mary replaces the pen in his hand,
trembling, he begins to take her dictation.
Pausing for a moment,
I raise my trembling eyes
To where the sacred belly of the Virgin lies;
I see the swelling, but no navel can devise
and I wonder what source feeds the sealed vessel’s
Rising, I circle round the waist’s purse bulging,
desiring to know how the vessel is holding
the sacred weight without compromising
either covering or seal, or fastening (10).
Wondering, again wondering at this miracle,
I discover a confessional, or cubicle
and finally, see something softly spherical
and hiding deep within, the deer celestial (11).
I walk, turning around the belly’s little mound,
scarcely aware of the perfume rising around;
so breaking forth my tears and moans abound
and seeking the Virgin’s foot again I sink down
Mary, you speak, for rivers of honey rushing
down from your lips are sweetly trickling
and with such a surging springs of milk are gushing
that in a sweet milky flood the world is drowning
By this honey the lord is drawn down from heaven;
with this honey suckle to the father’s son is
once sent, to the honey right away he’s taken,
a kiss of honey from the honey to awaken (14).
2 . The
poet contemplates the miracle of the Annunciation and
Concepetion in a series of metaphors. The Virgin is
the Burning Bush, an oven in which the bread of Christ
is baked, and a cask of wine that all Christians thirst
for. The anti-Jewish sentiment of the following passage
is an essential part of Walter’s devotion to the
Her belly’s cask Maria has consecrated;
mortals, angels and shades be inebriated;
let the poor man along with the rich be invited,
to drain wine from that cask until he is sated (132).
The angelic throng from the belly’s cask tipples,
drunk from it too are all the catholic peoples;
alone in despising it are Jewish pit-bulls—
excellent wine! they are oenephobic cripples (133).
To see the tavern close is excruciating;
so damn close and yet so far my hand is shaking;
I’m nowhere near paying what it costs for slaking
thirst with the likes of the wine the Virgin’s
Desperate now, I’m within sight of Mary’s
I open gaping wide my throat, so dry it’s sore;
gasping internally I pound the tavern door—
one little drinkypoo or a teensy trickle more! (135)
. Walter continues
this alcoholic rant for some thirty stanzas before shifting
to a comparison of Noah’s flood and the new flood
of grace. Eventually, having exhausted this meditation
he laments having been born too late to witness the
birth of Christ and settles on a narrative solution.
That God turns back the time to those
early days, let’s say.
What should I do now? Right straight, without delay
To visit the shores of Judea I’m on my way--
here the anchor of my little boat is fixed to stay
. The Magi
come and go but the Walter prefers to stay with the
infant and mother.
Let others go home to
their countries, I will stay,
our little boy in his cradle gently to sway;
those who wish let them leave; I will not go away
but will cling to the cradle by night and by day (221).
The tiny babe sits in his mother’s lap secure
and now with moistened lips a kiss he offers her,
a dewy kiss sweetened with intimate mixture
of saliva sprinkling its sweet melting moisture (223).
The infant’s tiny
body Mary is turning,
now the cheeks, the mouth, now the tiny neck kissing,
the hand, tiny arm, chest and back of the princeling,
the thigh, tiny leg, foot and knee of the kingling
. When Herod
begins to slaughter baby boys, Walter offers to help
the Holy Family escape to Egypt.
I will if you command go down on all
your donkey; roll up the child’s clothing and
on our way, flying by night without a witness
so that the wicked enemy has no notice (235).
I am the donkey, so
onto me now transfers
the Virgin’s small weight and the little one
if the brute should falter, then, Virgin, he deserves
that you goad with your heels, give him your bloodied
Should the beast falter and under the sweet weight
it’s up to you to lash him, to prick and to
with the spurs; should he kick, unwilling to gallop
then punish the wretched little ass with your whip
I am your ass, for whatever reason, freely
you may kill me, I’m your beast and property;
if when he’s meant to run the ass walks unwillingly
why not plunge the spur into its side instantly? (240)
With your sweet right hand, if the beast goes slow
snatch up the whip; you’re the mistress, with
thick strokes show
the wretched creature, till with bloody sides he knows
your sacred heels, and then again repeat the blows
. As Christ
grows from baby to adolescent, Walter treats him with
some ambivalence. On Passover, when the Son lags behind
in Jerusalem thereby causing his mother anguish, Walter
acts as an advocate for his Mother in the Court of Mercy.
On behalf of My Lady, Lord, I make
Let the judge of mercy and piety decree
Whether, free of the slightest criminality,
A woman should endure such pain and cruelty (287).
The witness trembling at the stand with anxious eyes
is mother of a thousand tears, a thousand sighs;
and if I add a hundred thousand groaning cries,
see the crowd of people, a family uprise! (292)
his case and the Son returns to his Mother after an
absence of three days, submitting to her in obedience.
This moves the poet into a long digression on Vanity,
including the vanity of science.
I don’t want to make a speech
about the stars at all,
or set forth any topic that’s celestial,
I wish to play instead with the smallest of the small
and seek what to the tiny gnat is natural (392).
The gnat with its sting first makes its incision,
drawing waves of blood into its inner region;
you’ve got two days to find out what constriction,
what little pipe or fissure gives the gnat suction
Into its guts the gnat sucking delicately
draws thick blood; you from whom highest reality
cannot be hidden, nor deepest profundity,
unfold the ways lead by this fragile entity (394).
You know the source that causes the earthquake’s
and the ebb and flow of the waves of the ocean,
what’s engendered by the mineral concoction;
look how easily stumped you are by my question (395).
You who blabber on, your empty words so risible
about heaven’s spheres and stars inummerable;
tell me, I ask you, how with barely visible
conduits the gnat can make blood drinkable (396).
Vanity digression comes to a close as the forces of
night prepare to attack the Light. Walter wonders where
Christ’s supporters are now that he is in need,
and laments that the wrath God visited upon His enemies
in the Old Testament is not visited on the enemies of
Why not pay the Jewish
wickedness a visit?
Why not smash them to pieces, bare your teeth a bit
that such barbarity might plunge into the pit
and the Styx swallow up the ruined aggregate? (488)
are the floods, the winds, lightening and hail? Where
are the earthquakes and the plagues of Egypt?
The army of Christ turns
tail on its assurance
and when the four elements, who owe allegiance,
it’s said, to Christ first, deny him their assistance,
the leader goes to battle with no alliance (531).
The soldier is terrified and gives way to the thug;
at least, let the flea come to give Christ some plug,
the locust and stinging wasp and whatever bug
helped to loosen the grip of the Egyptian hug (532).
10 . Walter
cannot stand by and see Christ abandoned. He vents his
rage on the carpenter who made the cross.
Tormented by my zeal’s impetuosity
I rush on the man with too much velocity
and with his own hatchet for his atrocity
dispatch him swiftly to the Stygian nethercity (536).
To the worker, too, of the hatchet’s artifice
by which the cross I see was made an edifice,
inflamed, hacking his neck in two, I dismiss
both vipers, handing them down to the black abyss
Cursed likewise the earth which gave the iron
that poured out streams of such pestiferous poison
from which the lethal material was drawn
by him who made the hatchet making carrion (540).
Why did the earth throw up this deadly fever?
Why did it open up a view of foul things? Why offer
no grave to the diggers but instead proffer
poison that best lies within earth’s deepest
11 . Once
again, as he imagines the forces of darkness as a drunken
mob, humiliating and tormenting Christ, Walter rages
against the Jewish race.
The race of Jews Jesus was specially content
to choose that they receive from him sweet nutriment
as from his nurse a son; look how vile their intent
now to destroy the one who gave them nourishment!
inevitable moment arrives as Christ is nailed to the
Perfidious Jews, take Mary with the other,
and, with welcome execution, kill the mother;
into them both, I beg, pound the nails yet further
and both Son and Mother crucify together (595).
On one single cross let the mother and son
rejoice, embracing each other in unison,
let the fluids of the dear friends’ blood mingled
let the dead stiffen into a single junction (597).
Satan would have pity on the Mother in anguish and grant
her a place on the cross with her Son. Walter calls
on the Father to save his Son and then on Jesus to punish
his enemies. But Walter must submit to the narrative.
Wholeness languishes and life gives
up the fight,
profound clarity turns into murky night,
extinguished is the inextinguishable light;
Not Isaac but the highest crown concedes its height.
Walter turns his thoughts to his own death (637).
O gate of heaven, open what’s been locked away,
and when your servant’s dressed in funeral array,
grant him be your footstool so that your feet you
one on his mouth, the other on his forehead lay (639).
14 . He
dedicates the poem to "pueris," the boys,
or simply boys, and asks for their prayers.
This work I offer to the boys to read;
may their prayers commend me in my final peace
to the boy child late from the tender womb released,
born from the father’s womb before the dawning’s
Here ignorance makes an end to the paper scrap;
here confusion of the senses makes a gap;
around you, heavenly lady, all glory wrap;
around you, lady, uncharted praises map (644).
Cum pausam facio, trementem oculum/ad sacrum uirginis
levo ventriculum;/tumorem uideo sed nullum neuulum (literally
"flaw");/mirror quo tumeat intactum uasculum.//Surgens
circueo uentralem sacculum/nosse desiderans quale pondusculum/uas
sacrum teneat, quod nec operculum/nec seram perdidit
neque signaculum.//Miror et iterum miror miraculum;/lustrum
inuenio siue cubiculum,/tandem inspiciens unum molliculum/et
intus celicum latentem hinnulum.//Giro perambulo uenteris
monticulum/uix fere senciens dulcem odorculum;/prorumpens
igitur in luctum querulum/descendo uirginis reuisens
pedulum (MC 9-12). <<return to
loquere nam tua labia/torrentes mellios sunt distillancia/tantoque
gurgite lac resudancia/quod mundus mergitur in lactis
copia.//Hoc melle dominus de celo trahitur;/hoc melle
filius patris allicitur;/statim ad melculum missus dirigitur/et
mellis osculum a melle petitur (MC 13-14). <<return
Maria dolium uentris iniciat,/mortales,
celicos et manes debriat;/pauper cum diuite secure ueniat,/de
uentris dolio quantum uult hauriat.//De uentris dolio
potantur celici,/potantur etiam omnes catholici;/hoc
uinam nobile Judei canici/soli despiciunt, sunt enim
rustici.//Ue michi misero! Tavernam uideo/et uentris
dolium, sed tamen doleo;/non enim precium condignum
habeo/quo frui merear uino uirgineo.//Marie dolium dolens
aspicio,/hiulcans aridas fauces aperio;/cauponam intimo
pulso suspirio/ut fruar uinuli uel stillicidio (MC 132-35).
<<return to verses>>
Illi repatrient, ego remaneo/ et nostrum paruulum in
cunis cilleo;/ qui uolunt, abeant; ego non abeo,/sed
cunis perdius pernox adhereo (MC 220).
. . .ego remaneo uisurus ubera/que profert paruulo uirgo
puerpera.//Sedet infantulus in matris gremio/ et offert
osculum humecto labio,/ quod quidem osculum indulcat
mixtio/ saliue tenuis et deguttacio.// Maria paruuli
girat corpusculum,/ nunc genas osculans, nunc os, nunc
collulum,/ manus, brachiola, pectus, dorsiolum,/ latus
et crustula, pedem, geniculum (MC 221, 223, 229). Rigg
glosses "crustula" as the diminutive of "crus."
It can also be a little pastry. To give the effect of
the Latin diminutives, and to save the rhyme scheme,
I have introduced "princeling" and "kingling"
into the translation of Stanza 229, since "backling"
and "kneeling" would only confuse. <<return
The Latin reads, "Volo, si iubeas, asellum sternere"
which means, to make the donkey bend down for loading.
But since in the next stanzas Walter becomes the donkey,
it makes sense to make "sternere" reflexive.
Uolo, si iubeas, asellum sternere/et paucos pueri pannos
conuoluere,/et caute uolumus de nocte fugere,/ne possit
impius hostis aduertere.//Ego sum asinus; michi sarcinula/debetur
uirginis cum prole paruula;/si pecus cespitat, tu uirgo
uirgula/cede calcaribus, cruenta stimula.//Si pecus
cespitat dulci sub onere/tuum est cedere, tuum est pungere;/si
forte calcitret nolens procedere,/castiga miserum asellum
uerbere.//Tuus sum asinus, ergo me libere/ut pecus proprium
potes occidere;/si non uult asinus ut placet currere,/cur
non uis lateri ferrum immergere?//Si pecus lentum est,
dulci tu dextera/flagellum arripe crebroque uerbera/miscellam
bestiam, cruenta latera/sacratis calcibus, et ictus
itera (MC 235, 238-41). <<return
Appello, domine, pro mea domina:/decernat
pietas si debet femina/quam nulla faciunt ream peccamina/tot
mala perpeti, tot cruciamina.//Testis que titubat est
mater anxia/milleque lacrime, mille suspiria;/addo gemituum
centena milia;/en quantus populus, quanta familia! (MC
287, 292). <<return to verses>>
Nolo de sidere sermonem facere/nec de
celestibus quicquam obicere,/sed uolo paruulus in paruis
ludere,/et parui culicis naturam querere.//Culex aculeo
forat articulam,/in se trahiciens cruoris undulam;/queso,
perhendie dic per quam canulam/uel per quam rimulam
uel per quam fistulam?//Cruorem turbidum culex in uiscera/sugendo
trahicit; tu quem nec supera/latere poterunt, immo nec
infera,/subtilis explica ductus itinera.//Scis unde
prodeat terrarum mocio,/ fluctus equorei reciprocacio,
/que mineralia gignat decoctio,/et ecce facilis artat
te questio!//Tu qui deblateras uerbis inanibus/de celi
circulis et de sideribus,/dic, queso, quomodo uix uisibilibus/cruorem
attrahit culex canalibus (MC 392-96). <<return
Cur non Judaicum scelus increpitas?/Quare
non dissilis, quare non oscitas/ut petat baratrum tanta
crudelitas/et Stix excipiat cateruas perditas?(MC 488).
In fugam uertitur Christi milicia/et mundi quatuor dicta
principia/que debent denegant Christo suffragia,/et
dux soliuagus uadit ad prelia.//Formidant milites et
cedunt furie,/saltem subueniant Christo cinomie,/brucus
et ciniphes et musce uarie,/que terre fuerant onus Egipcie
(MC 531-32). <<return to verses>>
Cum zeli crucior impaciencia,/in carpentarium
ruo ui nimia,/cesumque miserum securi propria/mitto
celeriter ad regna Stigia.//Fabro similiter qui securiculam/fecit,
qua fieri cerno cruciculam,/accensus animo cedo ceruiculam,/utramque
baratro tradens aspidulam (MC 536-37). <<return
Ue terre pariter, que ferrum dederat/que
tam pestiferum uirus effuderat/de qua materiam letalem
sumpserat/is qui letiferam securim fecerat!//Cur terra
noxium uirus euomuit?/Cur fodientibus hiando paruit?/Cur
non fossoribus sepulcrum prebuit?/Cur non profundius
hoc uirus posuit? (MC 540-41). <<return
Genus Judaicum peculialiter/Jhesus
elegerat et fouit dulciter/ut nutrix filium, et ecce
qualiter/suum nutricium occidit uiliter! (MC 580). <<return
Judei perfidi, Mariam prendite,/cum
dulci pignore matrem occidite,/eisdem, obsecro, clauis
confodite/matrem et filium et crucifigite.//Mater et
filius eandem habeant/crucem ut mutuo complexu gaudeant;/amici
sanguinis liquores misceant,/in uno stipite defuncti
rigeant (MC 595, 597). <<return
Languiscit sanitas et uita moritur,/profunda
claritas in noctem vertitur,/inextinguibile lumen extinguitur;/non
tamen Ysaac sed uertex ceditur.//O celi ianua, tu celum
aperi/tuumque famulum cum datur funeri/fac tuis pedibus
scabellum fieri,/os uni subice, frons detur alteri (MC
636, 639). <<return to verses>>
opus pueris legendum offero;/illi me precibus commendent
puero/qui sero prodiit de uentre tenero/ante luciferum
de patris utero.//Hic finem cartule facit inscicia,/hic
metam uendicat sensus aporia;/sit tibi, domina celorum,
gloria,/sit tibi, domina, laus mete nescia. Amen (MC
643-44). <<return to verses>>