A poem for Holy Week

I’m always stunned by the poetry of Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg. For those of you who haven’t come across her, she was an Austrian poet of the Baroque period who had mystic leanings. Her poem Uber den gekreuzigten Jesus (‘On the crucified Jesus’) needs no introduction.  For those of you who read no German, I have provided a (loose and not very accomplished) translation to give you the gist, which should ideally be read only as a gloss to the German.*

Enjoy the way she uses iconicity – particularly Jesus’ arms stretched open wide on the cross.

Uber den gekreutzigten JESUS

Seht der König König hängen /
und uns all mit Blut besprengen.
Seine Wunden seyn die Brunnen /
draus all unser Heil gerunnen.
Seht / Er strecket seine Händ aus / uns alle zu umfangen;
hat / an sein liebheisses Hertz uns zu drucken / Lustverlangen.
Ja er neigt sein liebstes Haubt / uns begierig mit zu küssen.
Seine Sinnen und Gebärden / sind auf unser Heil gefliessen.
Seiner Seiten offen-stehen /
macht sein gnädigs Herz uns sehen:
wann wir schauen mit den Sinnen /
sehen wir uns selbst darinnen.
So viel Striemen / so viel Wunden /
als an seinen Leib gefunden /
so viel Sieg- und Segens-Quellen
wolt Er unsrer Seel bestellen.
zwischen Himmel und der Erden
wolt Er aufgeopffert werden:
daß Er GOtt und uns vergliche.
uns zu stärken / Er verbliche:
Ja sein Sterben / hat das Leben
mir und aller Welt gegeben.
Jesu Christ! dein Tod und Schmerzen
leb’ und schweb mir stets im Herzen!

~

Source: http://www.wortblume.de/dichterinnen/gekjesus.htm

On the crucified Jesus

See, the King hanging as King,
see how he sprinkles us all with blood.
His wounds, they are the fountains
out of which our rescue pours forth.
See how he stretches wide his hands to enfold us all;
See his yearning to press us to his heart that burns with love.
Yea, he bows his most beloved head eagerly to bestow kisses upon us,
all his senses and gestures together stream out to rescue us.
His merciful heart causes us
to see his sides, wide open.
As we gaze upon them with all our senses
we see ourselves in them.
So many furrows, so many wounds
Are to be found on his body
such wellsprings of victory and blessing
that he intends for our souls.
Between Heaven and Earth
he chooses to be sacrificed
to match us with God.
To strengthen us, he fades himself.
Indeed, his death has given life
to me and to the whole world.
Jesu Christ! Let your pain and death
live and move me in my heart!

*There are some parts of her syntax which have – frustratingly – left me baffled. The Germanists among you are invited to comment on the inaccuracies of my translation.

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2 Responses to A poem for Holy Week

  1. I see an alternative translation can be found at http://graceandreacchi.blogspot.com/2009/04/easter-glory.html and a facsimile of the original is available on Google books.

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