Weblog since 2004 on books, films, art and travel.
Subscribe to the RSS feed.

when the new season makes its way

If after seeing 'Hadewijch' (reviewed before), you're curious about the 13th century poet, mystic and beguine ('begijn') from Brabant, here's a sample of her work.

Hadewijch's visions and mystical poetry are classics of Middle Dutch literature, and in recent years have seen a revival in translations into modern Dutch as well as English. Inspired by the courtly love poetry of the troubadours, Hadewijch used their conventions to evoke her love of God. And like later mystical poets - St. John of the Cross especially comes to mind - her passion and sensual imagery often blur the line between worldly and spiritual love.

When the new season makes its way,
the mountains and the valleys sleep
and everything is dark and grey.
 And yet the hazel comes alive.
The lover may misfortune reap,
 but he'll outgrow it and revive.

What good are the season and its joys
for him who seeks love bright and fair,
when all the world his trust destroys;
 no one supports him, no one true
to share his love with and declare:
 'My soul fulfilment finds in you.'


You fearless ones, whose trust endures
and who live freely in love's care,
take pity on the one love lures
 into a dark and lonely hell.
Those who have answers well may fare,
 but my heart in despair does dwell.

I saw a radiant cloud arise
out of a dense and darkened sky.
Its beauty took me by surprise.
 I lingered in the sun, at play.
But all this proved a dream, a lie.
 Who'd blame me if I'd died that day?


Yet all these matters I address
are known too well and won't astound
the noble whom God gives love's stress
 so they can taste its sweetness too.
Before a harmony is found
 there's bitter sorrow to get through.

Love strengthens and it brings rough weather,
 as the adventure will show.
Ah, how it all comes together,
 the stranger cannot know.

From 'Song 16', translated by Judith Wilkinson. Poetry International Web also has 'Song 5' and 'Song 17'.

For the original Middle Dutch flavor, Coster has her collected 'Strofische Gedichten' ('Poems in Stanzas'). And if you really want to delve into it, see the in-depth Dutch resources at the KB and DBNL.


iffr: hadewijch

Modern mysticism at the International Film Festival Rotterdam , with Bruno Dumont 's new film ' Hadewijch ', a thoughtful meditation as austere and introspective as its troubled heroine. The story is like a religious parable, cryptic… Read the full post »

No comments

Leave a comment

(optional field)
(optional field)

To prevent automated commentspam you need to answer this question...
Remember personal info?
Hide email
Small print: All html tags except <b> and <i> will be removed from your comment. You can make links by just typing the url or mail-address.