Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Two Marian Drafts

The first, a rather simple affair, is (of course) based on Luke 1:46-56.

Mary's Magnificat

The Lord my spirit magnifies,
My soul takes joy in Savior God,
Who has not this maid despised;
From now on all call me blessed
For the greatness He has done,
And Holy is His name confessed:
He pities those who seek His name,
He shows the power of His arm
By slaying proud folk in their game,
And casting down the highest thrones
To raise on high the lowly heart.
He fills the starving with His bread
And sends the rich to beg their part.
He helped, in sacred memory,
The children of His servant free,
As He promised, failing never,
To Abraham and us forever.

The second, somewhat farther along, is due to my interest in medieval hymns. This one, Stabat Mater Dolorosa, is roughed out from the Latin.

Stabat Mater Dolorosa

The mother, sorrowing, was standing here,
Beside the cross with falling tears
Where the Son was hanging,
Whose soul with sighing and lamenting,
Made afflicted, sorrow venting,
By the sword was piercéd through.

O how sad, with heart cast down,
Must have been that blessing-crowned
Mother of the Sole-begotten
Who was sorrowed with great grieving,
And was fearing, always seeing,
The pangs of the one she bore.

Who is the man who will not weep
If Christ's mother he does see
In such torture and such pain?
Whose heart is not eviscerated
When pious mother is contemplated
Sorrowing for her Son?

For the sins of Gentiles, Jews,
In torments Jesus she must view,
Submissive to the lash.
She sees her sweetest Only-born,
Desolate, and dying, torn,
As he gives His spirit forth.

Pious mother, Love's great source,
Make me feel the sorrow's force
As with you I cry and mourn,
As my heart is set alight
In the love of Godly Christ
And is made to please Him well.

Holy mother, if you will,
Fix me to the cross that still
My heart may feel the painful blows
That strike your bowed and wounded Son,
Who died for me that I be one
With Him in all His pains.

Make me cry and weep with you,
The Crucified to sorrow with you,
For as long as I shall live,
Near the cross to stand with you,
For I desire to share with you
The society of your tears.

Splendid maiden of all maidens,
With bitter thought be never laden,
But make me to bewail with you,
Make me bear the death of God,
Make me sharer of His rod,
And mindful of their blows.

Make me wounded with his blows,
With His cross to overflow,
and with the blood of Mary's Son;
Kindled, burning, set aflame,
May you defend me with your name
When comes the doom of judgment-day.

Make me safe beneath His cross,
Fortified against all loss,
By death and grace held tight;
When my flesh is no longer living,
Grant me grace of my soul's giving
To glory bright of Paradise.

The standard and excellent Caswall translation, found here, is much less rough, in part because it gives the full rhyme scheme of the original, unlike mine. However, by relaxing the original rhyme scheme, I was able to be stay somewhat closer to the Latin, including capturing some of the repetition. It's the standard trade-off in poetry, I suppose. I think my version is rather less soft and sentimental than Caswall's, although, I confess, I have nothing like:

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awful judgment day.

Which is not soft and sentimental at all, and, indeed, much more stern than the original, which keeps the focus on the Mother weeping at the foot of the Cross. (Some of the differences between Caswall's translation and mine are due to variants in the Latin. For these variants, and how Caswall's translation has occasionally been modified to accommodate them, see here.)

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