Poems in Stanzas by Hadewijch of Brabant

The Knight of Love


To sing of Love is pleasant in every season,
Be it autumn, winter, spring, or summer,
And to plead our case against her power,
For no courageous man keeps out of her way.
But we lazy ones often say in anxiety:
"What, would she tyrannize thus over me?
I had rather share the lot of those
Who manage to secure quiet,
And remain at home! Why should I
Sally forth to meet my doom?"


Ignoble persons of small perception
Fear the cost will be too high:
Therefore they withdraw from Love,
From whom all good would have come to them.
If they withdraw from Love's service,
They will be the conquerors, so they think.
But fidelity will show they are poor and make them known as they are,
All naked before Love's magnificence;"These are they who consumed everything they had,
But without coercion from Loce.


He who would gladly suffer sweet exile
(The roads to the land of high Love)
Would find his beloeved and his country at the end;
Of this, Fidelity gives seal and pledge,
Many a yokel, however, is such a beggar
That he takes what lies nearest his hand,
Remaining before Love unknown
With his beggar's garment;
So he has not the form or badge of honor
By which Love recognizes what is hers.


A fine exterior, fine garments,
And fine language adorn the knight:
To suffer everything for Love without turning hostile
Is a fine exterior for him who has such ability;
His garments then are his acts,
Performed with new ardor, not with self-complacency,
And with regard for all the needs of strangers
Rather than of his own friends:
This is the colored apparel, best adorned with blazons of nobility, to the honor of high Love.


Veracious words and great expenditures
In public, and fair splendor at home,
Most give the knight honor and luster;
By these signs can he best be recognized.
So it is also with them who love,
If they are established in the truth
And if they arrange their inner life with fair splendor,
As best pleases Love,
And give their whole love for Love's sake:
This gift is best pleasing to Love.


I speak of Love; and I counsel
Adorned splendor and noble deed.
That fidelity must pay back what Love consumed
Is small consolation for many a one
Who stands in the chains of Love,
In nonfuition and disgrace.
"Love always rewards, even though she comes late."
Here is my answer to that:
They who follow her suffer
From night in the daytime!


Who would be ever singing the praises of Love,
Since she gives night in the daytinme?
Those she ought to clothe, honor, and nourish,
She robs of all their strength:
Anyone who would gladly pay the tribute of love,
She ought to teach according to all justice,
And under the seal of fidelity raise to the height
Where the loved soul both encounters
And with the whole fruition of love,
Honors and adorns the Beloved.


What seems to the loved soul the most beautiful encounter
Is that it should love the Beloved so fully
And so gain knowledge of the Beloved with love
That nothing else be known by it
Except: "I am love conquered by Love!"
But he who overcame Love was rather conquered
So that he might in love be brought to nought:
In this lies the power that surpasses everything,
That from which Love
Was born from the beginning.


But we who are shallow, of frivolous mind,
Find the fears of Love harsh;
We are inconstant with small gains;
Therefore we are deprived of Love's clear truth.
I know (although I know not all the joys
That one experiences in Love's wealth,
Still enlightened reason teaches all this)
How to correspond with Love to the full.
Reason does not reach this truth:
No task too hard, and all is prepared anew.

They who early
Catch sight of Love's beauty,
And are quickly acquainted with her joy,
And take delight in it–
If things turn out well for them,
Will have, God knows,
A much better bargain in love
Than I have found so far.

Knight Errant
(Stanzas 1, 2, and 5 of 5)


Long hushed are the birds
That sang so joyously before:
Their joy is ended
Simply because they have lost summer.
They would soon have turned up in triumph
If they had got summer back again
With their favorite halcyon days,
For birds are born for summer;
You know this when you hear their song.


I say nothing of the birds' complaint:
Their joy, their pain are soon over;
But I complain of what displeases me more:
That Love, whom we should strive for,
Oppresses us with her noble burden,
And we grasp alien things close at hand,
So that Love cannot admit us to her good graces.
Alas, what our baseness has done to us!
This is disloyalty -- who will oust it for us?


Often I cry for help like one in despair:
"Beloved, when you come,
Seek me with new consolation!"
Then I ride my proud steed
And consort with my Beloved in supreme joy,
As if all beings of the North, the South, the East,
And the West were captive in my power.
And suddenly I am unhorsed, on foot.
--What use is it, alas, to recount my misery?

(stanzas 1, 4 & 5 of 5)


No matter what the time of year,
Nothing exits anywhere in the world
That can give me delight
Except verus amor!
O Love! In fidelity (since you are all
My soul's joy, my heart's goal),
Pity distress, look upon struggle;
Hear: cordis clamor!


O dearest Love, true and pure,
Why do you not see how I suffer,
And be in my smarting bitterness
Amid harships I go in quest of adventure
All other things, aprart from you, are bitter to me;
Give me fully, Love, your sublime nature,


Whether I am in plenty or in want,
Let all, Love, be according to your counsel;
Your blows show me the grace I owe
Whether I wade the deep or climb the summits,
Or find myself in hunger or in satiety,
All I wish, Love, is fully to content you,
Unde mori. Amen, Amen.

Translations by Columba Hart, O.S.B., in Hadewijch. The Complete Works (Paulist Press, 1980).

For a treatment of Hadewijch's poem's in the context of the troubadour's art, click here.

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