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Friday, August 28, 2015

Hadewijch (poem) 

God must give us a renewed mind (from Vale Millies)

By Hadewijch
(13th Century)

English version by Mother Columba Hart

God must give us a renewed mind
          For nobler and freer love,
To make us so new in our life
          That Love may bless us
And renew, with new taste,
          Those to whom she can give new fulness;
Love is the new and powerful recompense
          Of those whose life renews itself for Love alone.
-- Ay, vale, vale, millies --
          That renewing of new Love
-- Si dixero, non satis est --
          Which renewal will newly experience.
(found on PoetryChaikhana)

Here is Ivan Granger's interpretation of the poem:

Hi Dorothy-

Hadewijch -- often called Hadewijch of Brabant or sometimes Hadewijch of Antwerp -- lived in the 13th century in what is now Belgium. She is rightly called one of the greatest names in medieval Flemish and Dutch literature.

Little can be said for certain about the life of Hadewijch. Unlike many other women mystics of the time, no biography was written about her, so all we know is what scholars have been able to deduce from her writings themselves.

Hadewijch was probably the head of a Beguine community. The Beguines were a sect of devout women in Belgium, Holland, Germany and northern France. Beguines did not take vows, but they gathered together to live in simplicity and service. Many Beguines were mystics and poets of the highest order.

Hadewijch's poetry has a rich love mysticism. Like her contemporary, St. Francis of Assisi, Hadewijch was clearly inspired by the courtly love poetry of the Troubadours and Minnensingers. The fact that she was familiar with this courtly art form suggests that Hadewijch was probably born to a noble family.

The writings of Hadewijch were gathered and studied by the Flemish Christian mystic John Ruusbroec in the 1300s, but later fell into obscurity until rediscovered in the 1800s by scholars.


God must give us a renewed mind
For nobler and freer love,

There is something about this opening line that carries both hope and... relief. As we go through life, often struggling through our encounters, we develop psychic survival patterns as ways to cope and move forward. These patterns of thinking and perception may be entirely necessary at the time, or at least they are the best we can imagine in the confusion of the moment, but then we become trapped by the mental patterns we ourselves have devised. These habits of mind often imprint so deeply that we forget they are there and we imagine they are reality itself. Our behaviors, what we think is possible, who we think we are, all result from these self-created patterns of the mind.

When the spirit seeks freedom, liberation, salvation, it is from precisely this: the rigid and over-patterned awareness. Growth requires space, new ground, fresh air, possibility. The mind must be renewed.

For us to recognize or receive or realize a "nobler and freer love," to discover that something that will "make us so new in our life," the mind itself must rest and reset. It must become clear and open, a new space ready for the possibility of new awareness.

This is the renewing power of meditation and prayer.

We become ready to receive the mystic's love. For those of us shaped by the modern world, it is difficult to read the word "love" and understand it. It's a word that's bandied about but with little meaning beyond infatuation or loyalty. But when mystics utter the word "love," we are in the rush of the most profound flood of transformative energy. It is an experience of the Divine, the healing, unifying touch upon the awareness, in which we recognize that all is one, all is beauty, and all is within one's heart.

Within the phrases of this poem, there is a sense of letting go as we are renewed. When we translate that first Latin phrase -- Ay, vale, vale, millies "Ay, farewell, farewell, a thousand times" -- we are saying goodbye over and over again. The following line seems to say we are letting go, again and again, of Love itself... yet it keeps coming back to us, repeatedly renewing us, comforting and filling us anew with is own presence as this most "powerful recompense." So the renewal itself endlessly renews itself, making this divine Love a perpetually new experience. We have the image not of trapping or acquiring this new experience but, instead, of a force that flows through us, continuously passing through us, while all the mystic can do is remain open.

Si dixero, non satis est "If I speak, it is not enough." Can words truly describe it?


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