This is the second poem in the three poem cycle on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. See introduction to d2_KinA_001. References to specific passages in the Gospels which Craig draws upon can be found in the notes to the Latin text. Metre: hexameter.
Iesu Christi Passio (n.d.)
Iesu Christi Passio 1
1Rerum aeterne parens, 2 verbo qui cuncta creasti,
sic tua pollentis foecunda potentia dextrae,
et bonitas immensa; sui dum prodiga vasto
primaeva e nihilo dedit incunabula mundo,
5sic tua naturae in similes sibi provida formas
explicuit sese sapientia, et ordine miro
omnia digessit: spaciosa volumina caeli
et curvo suspensa tholo, succensaque claris
sideribus: nitidis seu moenia concita flammis 3
10complexi cohibere suo mortalia possent,
inque suos orbes motu revoluta perenni
multiplicem variare situm; quae flammea terris
lumina dispensent, foveantque ambita calore
perpetuasque vices, et fata volubilis aevi
15fixa lege regant: elementa coercita certis
finibus, 4 in rerum genitalia semina 5 cogant,
quae se perpetuo perimant reparentque vicissim,
corporibus dum mista 6 suos mortalibus ortus, 7
interitusque novant, similique in stirpe propagant.
20Iamque operi tanto, et tanti moliminis orbi
authorem qui te coleret, ne deforet hospes;
sedibus empyreis puras sine corpore mentes
[p207] constituis: tua praecinctas ad jussa ministras
quas mandes quocumque libet; vultusque decore
25divini illectas tua laus exerceat hymnis.
Tu formas e limo hominem: 8 vitaque, animaque
informas; qui te referat sub imagine viva,
naturaeque uno jungat divortia vinclo,
in se complexus magni compendia mundi.
30Mirum opus artificis summi, cui serviat aether,
et quae seu liquidum pernicibus aera pennis,
seu vasti pinnis sulcant vada salsa 9 profundi,
quaeque colunt terras animalia caetera, praestant
obsequium; et quicquid mortale est, cedit in usum.
35Quin ne quid desit; quod vita beata reposcat,
ubere vernantem gleba 10 scatebraque salubri
rivorum et fructu sine cultu perpete 11 sacrum
naturae melioris adhuc genialibus hortum
delitiis, faelix aeternum ubi degeret aevum,
40instruis insontis obsequio sic pectus, ut uno
abstineat malo. 12 Nimium sed credulus eheu
dum facilem a colubro delusae conjugis aurem
blanditiis cedit; vetiti se crimine mali
obstringit: mortisque reum te judice justo
45reddit, et in totam transfert contagia stirpem.
Ah cladem immanem, funestaque vulnera! Labis
faecundae unde lues, scelerum serpensque venenum
multiplici foetu usque adeo succrevit in omnem
malitiam: ut generi reparando nulla salutis
50spes foret humano: nisi te miserante paterni
affectus amor ille tui (cui parcere promptum)
immeritos venia dignatus; debita nostra
donasset quo accepta ferat, sed oportuit irae
iustitiaeque tuae fieri satis: illa nocentum
55vulnera, divina medicam virtute potentem
exposcunt dextram: non hic Epidaurius anguis,
non Chiron, magnive sagax sollertia Coi
profuerint; totam exhalans non ara Sabaeam: 13
una satisfecit chari tibi victima nati,
60pro nobis sine labe nocens; qui sanguine nostras
elueret labes: Stygiaque tyrannide pressos
[p208] liberet, et miserae reparet dispendia vitae,
morte sua aeternum ducens de morte triumphum.
Scilicet hic immensus amor, nostraeque salutis
65sollicitudo Deum coelo deduxit, et alvo
virginea inclusit: sine semine nascitur infans 14
qui fando mundum, nullo de semine fecit:
et primum in terris oculis mortalibus haurit
lumen, naturae princeps, et luminis author.
70Iamque pati coepit pro nobis: pauper, inopsque
hospitii vagit: teneros non alligat artus
fascia regalis: cunas praesepia praestant,
sic asinos inter, servum, patiensque laborum
abjectumque pecus legit cunabula, servi
75os habitumque ferens, patiens, humilisque, piusque,
peccati subiturus onus, cui viribus impar
nostra fuit natura, gravi sub mole fatiscens.
Vix prima humanae transgressus limina vitae,
necdum sollicitae seclusus ab ubere matris,
80quaeritur ad caedem, dum vi possessa tyrannus
sceptra timet non firma suis: arcanaque fata
priscorum inquirit vatum: qua stirpe, domove,
quove loco nasci rex debeat ille, Sionem
qui regat imperio, et folio dominetur avito. 15
85Ergo Niliacis profugus puer exulat oris,
usque latens, functo dum vita Herode pericli
securus Solymas repetit, satagitque salutis
humanae ingressus primae lanuginis annos; 16
se pergit monstrare Deum, mundoque revelat.
90Insomnes supplex noctes, lucesque docendo
traducit: nusquam requie, nusquam lare certo
exceptus: sibi non parcit, mortalibus aegris 17
ut parcat, reseretque viam ad caelestia regna.
Iam populi regit ille animos, et pectora mulcet 18
95nectare divino: doctores legis inani
arguit elatos fastu: legumque suarum
non dedignatur sensus aperire latentes
ingratis: tenerum macerant jejunia corpus
humanas ultra vires protracta, coercet
100tentantem Satanam: solo medicamine verbi
[p209] omne genus morbi curat: quos funere clausit
lex fati, vitae reddit, tumida aequora placat: 19
luctantes cohibet ventos: 20 furiasque refraenat
imperio: totam illustrant miracula vitam:
105emollire feros animos, priscisque Prophetis
quae possent meruisse fidem; hunc illum 21 esse potenti
promissum Solymae Iessaeo e semine regem,
qui populum beet, et late sua brachia fundat,
aeternoque sibi firmet diademata sceptro.
110O fortunatos nimium sua si bona noscent,
mortales! Quibus 22 in patrium clementia coelum
aerumnis sic pandit iter; tantoque labore
perpetuam indulsit faelici in pace quietem.
At non ista sibi tamen indulgentia metam
115hic posuit: pretio voluit majore redemptos
astringi: exsolvi quod non nisi sanguine posset,
ut merito crescente suo; spes nostra fidesque
cresceret, et certo spiraret pignore caelum.
Sex aevi exactis juncta trieteride lustris, 23
120ducturo laetum victa de morte triumphum,
letho sternit iter callosum tramitis arcti,
sed recti facilisque, Deo ducente: volenti
gratia non desit: sentes succidit eunti
indivisa comes; ne, si seu credulus error
125simplicitasve ignara viae; per devia ducat,
lassa vel infirmo titubent vestigia lapsu,
longius exerret, vel opis linquatur egenus.
Iam 24 primum inscendit Phryxei sideris astrum
quadrijugis subvectus equis Titanius axis, 25
130Deliaque adversis properat se reddere chelis,
ut plenum radiis fraterni luminis orbem
imbuat, authorem mox confessura regressu:
iam sacra pascalis subeunt solemnia festi,
quo vates veteri de more adoleret ad aras,
135qui delicta piet puri libaminis agnum:
quum Christus pando Solymas invectus asello
excipitur populi applausu: veneratur euntem
turba frequens: palmisque vias, et veste profusa
sternit humum: 26 qua qua incedit, regemque professa
[p210] 140Davidis e magni demissum stirpe, salutem
supplicibus poscit votis, et numen adorat.
Hinc dolor Isacidas proceres, hinc improbus urit
livor inerti odio: succendit turgida fastu
ira: sed hinc vulgi terret metus, inde sequaces
145spes animos, quocunque velint inflectere lucro;
quod statuunt audire, nefas jubet: ergo frequenti
consilio coeunt, votis communibus unum
deposcunt Christum ad caedem: sese impius ultro
immiscet sceleri genio possessus avaro,
150insontem Iudas Dominum qui prodidit hosti, 27
ipse nocens vili pretio, misereque perenni
damno animi infaelix: at qui praeviderat ante
omnia ab aeterno, crucis ut se accingat ad aram;
discipulos mactati epulis paschalibus agni
155convivas adhibet: sed jam meliora daturus
purgatis tantum quae prosunt fercula, vero
instruit obsequio mentes, et flumine puro,
ablutis pedibus purgat, 28 mensaeque recumbens
divinam instituit coenam: pro corporis umbra
160coelestes animarum epulas, panemque salutis
substituit, corpus quod consecraverat arae.
Scilicet hac mensa convivas excipit, omni
purgatos scelerum eluvie, procul esse profanos 29
admonet: atque impurae illota piacula vitae
165praevenit immeritos, invitat, purgat, alitque,
se donat meritis, et per se posse mereri.
Trans Cedron, 30 radiis Solymas qua Phoebus 31 Eois
aspergit, multa frondescens collis oliva
assurgit molli clivo: cresentibus umbris
170sub noctem huc itur: solus secedit in hortum:
instanti precibus, teneros ubi perluit artus
sanguineus sudor, 32 tristi dum mente revolvit,
quam peccata pater justam commotus in iram
oderit, et quanti pacatum reddere constet.
175Interea furvo terras involvit amictu
nox sceleri opportuna: sibi cum visus opacis
tutior in tenebris, armato milite Iudas
septus adest: Dominum monet esse, jubetque teneri
[p211] cautius, ille cui libaverat oscula: primo
180congressu horrentes tremulus pavor occupat hostes
prosternitque solo: sed mox terrore soluti
qui cedat: facilem invadunt: velut agmine facto
Hiberna cum nocte lupi, quos improba siccis
faucibus exegit rabies, praedaeque cupido:
185et stabulis avidi tenerum rapuere juvencum,
sic instant sceleri. Trepido fit pugna tumultu,
sed levis obnitente Petro succiditur auris
acrius instanti Malcho: 33 jubet arma recondi
vim prohibens, qui vim patitur, laesumque benignus
190curat: seque dedit poscentibus obvius ultro,
abduci captum permittit, scilicet agnum
qui crucis infamem sacra mactaretur ad aram
hostia pro populo. Quanta haec patientia? Nostri
quantus amor? Qui tanta pati voluisse coegit
195discipulum ficto non aversatus amoris
prodentem signo. reliquos formidine lapsos
allevat, infensos animos, odia aspera, linguas
mordaces, et foeda suae convitia gentis;
dum vincla injiciant, certantque illudere capto,
200sustinet. emensis sic nox traducitur umbris.
Lucifero renovante diem jam sistitur Annae,
pontificique reus Caiphae, 34 quo judice, falsis
testibus immensae Deus et fons ipse perennis
iustitiae, arguitur laesae pietatis, iniquo
205iudicio: reddens quaesitis vera, maligne
caeditur. Ausonio cum quaesitore Pilato
ceu sontem exposcunt damnari: at indicat ille
innocuum: illaesum statuit dimittere; certus
traduci invidia magnatum: at territus alto
210exciti in furias populi clamore, minisque
in se vindictam optantis, ferosque nepotes,
castigari, etsi immeritum, caedique flagellis
imperat: ut si sic sedari forte tumultus
posset, et inflectat procerum clementia mentes.
215Saevius urgenti vulgo datur optio: Christum
mallet, an infamem multa cum caede rapinis
latronem absolvi: infenso suadente Senatu
[p212] fit populi concors clamor, poscentis Iesum
ad mortem: exempto vinclas praedone Pilatus
220cedit, et ablutis manibus 35 se crimine frustra
purgat, et indulgens populo negat esse noctentem,
qui potuit prohibere nefas. Sic ergo scelestum
effrenae procerum tandem permittitur irae,
ut nos morte sua justae subduceret irae
225patris, et infernum victor vastaret Avernum. 36
Inde cruci addictus trahitur, plebisque malignae
excipitur sannis: humeri vibice cruenta
livescunt, saevo sulcantur terga flagello:
despuitur facies: cocco velatur: acutis
230intexto spinis lacerantur tempora serto:
perluit ora genasque cruor: defecta labascunt
membra: et concreto durescit sanguine crinis.
Pro sceptro, fragili donatur arundine: risu
sic regem salvere jubent: gestuque procaci
235aeterno regum faciunt ludibria regi.
Nec satis id visum poenae: vix aegra trahenti
membra, crucem imponunt humeris, nimioque fatigant
pondere anhelantem: donec succurrere lasso,
qui tum forte aderat spectator, cogitur hospes
240Battiades Simon. faelix, cui contigit istas
sacri oneris subiisse vices, atque insigne decorum 37
ferre triumphati devicta morte barathri.
Collis erat, tum qua Phoebus se condit in unda
vicinus Solymis: fecit Calvaria nomen:
245suppliciis locus infamis, poenisque nocentum.
Convallem sanie undantem, taboque gravantem
nubila declinat Titan, odere volucres,
ulla nec intonsos carpsere animalia campos:
exutus trabea, manibusque ad terga revinctis,
250huc rapitur magna Ausonidum stipante caterva: 38
perque viam misero populi insultante corona.
Tandem ubi funesti tenuere cacumina montis,
una haec quem sacrum fecit crux inclita, nudus
sternitur, inque crucem rigidis frigentia nervis
255brachia tenduntur: validis plantasque manusque
transadigunt clavis: largo disrupta cruoris
[p213] vena sacri rivos fundit: quo fonte salubris
ambrosiae exundet succus mortalibus aegris,
leprosis quae sola animis Panacaea mederi
260posset, 39 et in coelum gratos expiret odores.
Nec modus hic odiis: non intermittitur ira:
viroso myrrham medicatam felle propinant: 40
inter latrones medius suffigitur: usque
imperitur probris: sitiens potatur aceto.
265O infaelices Solymas, populumque scelestum,
degenerem Isacidae sobolem, in sua damna nefandis
abreptam furiis! Cui non oracula vatum
credita priscorum, non tot miracula certa
coram ipsis monstrata fide, patientia, mite
270ingenium, 41 atque illibatae castissima vitae
integritas, summi non coelo audita parentis
vox, natum testata suum, potuere protervos
inflexisse animos, aut effera corda domare.
Dum sic suppliciis mentes et lumina pascunt,
275saeva nec indomitum consumit poena furorem;
ille animo languet plagis liventibus, ipsis
hostibus exposcens veniam, miserescit, et ultro
praedoni indulget, confesso crimine, coelum.
Iamque laboranti tanta sub mole dolorum,
280et vix extremas auras, vitaeque labantis 42
relliquias tenues ducenti; terra polusque
quo possunt gemitu, certant consortia luctus
authori conferre suo: lugubria Phoebus
induit, attonitis nocturna silentia terris
285inducit, trepidumque diem sub nocte recondit.
Et quanquam antipodes plena cum luce remotos
Cynthia lustraret; tanti tamen orba doloris
ne foret: ut nitidi sese exuat oris honore,
continuo versis relegens vestigia bigis
290se jungit fratri, et tenebris involvit opacis,
natura mirante sibi sua jura resigi.
Exangui tandem exolvit se corpore victor
mortis et inferni: clauduntur lumina nocte:
expirans caput inclinat: satis esse parenti
295iam factum edicit sese crucis agnus in ara.
[p214] Sic litat immunis labis gratissima patri
hostia pro nobis, idem, qui victima, mystes.
Agnoscunt elementa Deum: conterrita tellus
intremit, 43 abruptae rupes et saxa dehiscunt:
300pontifici tantum quae fas insistere, velo
descisso, patuere sacri penetralia templi. 44
Vix paucis tandem rerum novitate repressis
fecere haec ostenta fidem: conguntque fateri
demissum caelo numen, veramque Tonantis
305progeniem, insolitis cui consternata tenebris
sidera, divulsas petras, terrasque trementes
indoluisse vident, populo indignata furenti
sic licuisse sui saevire in funera regis.
Sol eluctatus tenebras, declivior undas
310iam petit Hesperias, 45 et adhuc manet ira superstes 46
exanimum in corpus: praecordia frigida saevo
lancea rimatur ferro: crudoque patescunt
vulnere pulmonum latebrae, cum sanguine puras
plaga recens sacro egessit de pectore lymphas. 47
315Nec desunt tamen, exequias et justa sepulchri
ac defleta pii qui curent funera, munda
Sindone 48 componant corpus frigentis, et unctum
marmoris excisi puro sub fornice condant,
faelices! Quibus in sacro sub funere grata
320diffungi pietate datum, lachrymisque profusis
oscula vulneribus libare, supremaque justa
solvere, deciduae quamvis immunia labis
unguentis condire et humata recondere membra.
Ergo nate Deo, qui talia, tantaque passus
325pandisti aeternae nobis compendia vitae, 49
morte tua, posita nostro pro crimine vita:
sordentem miserumque tuo me sanguine lustra:
et plagis da posse frui: miserere nocentis:
tu me redde mihi: vivumque in membra vigorem 50
330instaura; mentemque per haec tua vulnera labe
331purgatam patrio liceat componere caelo.
The Passion of Jesus Christ
1Eternal parent of the universe, you who have created all with the word, so fertile is your power in your mighty hand, and immense is your goodness. When, out of nothing, your vast power provided the infant cradle for the wide universe, so your wisdom, in its loving guardianship of nature, spread itself out into forms similar to itself, and arranged everything (the huge whirl of heaven propped up on a curved dome, and inflamed by bright stars) in wondrous order, so that the walls struck by shining flames could contain mortals in its embrace, and could transform many a region after they have retraced their steps within their own spheres in eternal motion to distribute their fiery light to the world, and envelop and warm it, and manage both their never-ending alternations, and the immutable nature of their revolving season in fixed law, and for the elements bound within fixed limits to gather together into the fertile seeds of the universe to destroy themselves constantly, and in turn restore themselves, as, infused throughout mortal bodies, they renew their life and death, and regenerate through similar offspring.
20And then, so that no one unfamiliar with such a great work and the turning of such a great undertaking would fail to worship you, its creator, you place undefiled minds free from their body in the starry dwellings, [p207]subordinates ready for battle at your orders, whom you may deploy to wherever you please - and may your splendour move them to song after they have been spellbound by the glory of your divine face! You create man from earth: you instil him with life and a soul, so that he may resemble you in a living image, and bind nature's divergent paths with one bond, having embraced the shortest route through the great universe through you. The wondrous work of the greatest creator (may heaven serve him) gives its use to all, whether they plow the liquid air on audacious wings, or the salty waves of the vast depths with fins, and all the rest of the animals who inhabit the earth and offer their obedience - indeed whatever is mortal. You provide a garden where nothing that the blessed life would need is missing: a garden flourishing with rich soil, with wholesome springs of water, sacred with an unending supply of self-generating produce, and with the fertile delights of a more prosperous nature, where the blessed will pass their eternal time: you provide your kindly mind in the service of the guiltless and you decree that they abstain from one forbidden fruit. Yet, alas, while the gullible man a lends too easy an ear to the enticements from a wife deceived by a serpent, he makes himself complicit in the forbidden fruit's sin, and, with you as righteous judge, he condemns himself to death, and he suffers all his descendants to bear his sins. Ah, what a monstrous calamity, and what deadly misfortunes! From them come the contagious pestilence of sin, and the poisonous serpent of wickedness which has even now sprung forth into all evils in manifold production; so that there is no hope of salvation for the human race to be restored - unless, in your pity, your paternal well-disposed love rewards the undeserving with indulgence (you for whom pardoning comes easy). He has forgiven our debts, so that he thinks them paid - but it was necessary for the measured deployment of your anger and justice. For those blows from the wicked demand a powerful hand which heals through divine virtue. Here neither the Epidaurian snake, not Chiron, nor the learned skill of the great Hippocrates would be of use; b nor any altar emitting the scents c of all Arabia. The single sacrifice of a dear son has paid your debts: a sinless victim convicted on our behalf, to purge our guilt with his own blood, to free those oppressed by Hell's tyranny, [p208]and exchange himself for the cessation of their miserable life. And through his own death he leads an eternal victory procession over death. Clearly an immense love and concern for our salvation has brought God here down from heaven, and enclosed him in a Virgin's bosom. The child who made the universe with speech, d and with no seed, is himself born from no seed. Now he who is prince of nature, and creator of light, beholds his first dawn on earth with mortal eyes.
70He has now begun to suffer on our behalf. For poor, and without shelter, he utters his first cries. Royal clothes do not bind his tender limbs, his cradle is a manger. He chose his cradle amid donkeys and servants, and the lowly cattle. Bearing the appearance and condition of a servant, patiently, humbly, and dutifully he will undertake the burden of our sin, while struggling under its great weight (for he has our nature, which is no match for such violence). Scarely passed over the first threshold of his human life, and not yet separated from his caring mother's womb, he is marked for death - for a tyrant e fears that his authority, which was acquired by force, is not respected by his subjects. So he investigates the mysterious decrees of the ancient soothsayers to establish from which family, from which house, and in what place that king is bound to be born who would rule Zion, and hold dominion upon his ancestral throne.
85Therefore the exiled child is banished to the lands of the Nile, constantly hiding, until free from danger - upon Herod's death - he travels to Jerusalem, and, after reaching the age of his first growth of beard, he embarks upon the task of human salvation. He then engages himself in teaching God, and revealing Him to the world. Humbly he passes restless nights and days in teaching. On no occassion did he take a rest, and in no place did he make a settled home. He does not take pity upon himself, so that he may take pity on human suffering and reveal the path to the heavenly kingdom. He governs people's minds and delights their hearts with divine nectar. He corrects the experts in the law who are puffed up with empty pride. He does not deem it unworthy of him to reveal the hidden meaning of his own laws to the ungrateful. A hunger, stretched beyond human endurance, weakening his frail body, he checks Satan who assails him. And with the ointment of the word alone [p209]he cures every type of disease. He restores to life those whom the law of inevitable fate has entombed in death, and he soothes the swollen seas. He constrains the struggling winds and restrains their fury with his power. His miracles light up all mankind, that they can soften fearsome minds - and they have justified the faith of the ancient Prophets, that he is that promised king from the powerful seed of King David Of Jerusalem, who would restore his people, and spread out his arms far and wide, and who would fortify his crown with a perpetual sceptre.
110Oh blessed are the mortals, if they know their rewards, for whom in their suffering his mercy then laid out the path to their father's heaven, and upon whom he has bestowed perpetual rest in blessed peace through his mighty effort. But that indulgence, however, has not set a limit upon itself there. For he wished that those redeemed at this very great cost be bound thus: that if he could be freed from mortal blood, just as his own merit was rising, our hope and faith would rise, and heaven would live with its own true son.
119After three years were added to the already completed six lustra of his age, f about to lead the happy triumph over vanquished death, the harsh passage of the narrow path to hell opens up, but which is easily managed with God's help. His favour is not missing from he who wants it. This indivisible companion cuts away the thorny bushes for his fellow traveller, so that, if they be easily led astray or simply do not know the way, he does not lead them through a pathless track, and they do not wander lost too far, and also so that their weary footsteps do not falter in weakened stride, nor are they forsaken and destitute of help.
128Now borne aloft on its chariot, Phoebus' wheel mounts the first star of Aries' constellation, and the Moon makes ready to return herself to the opposing arms of Scorpio, so that she may fill full her globe with the rays from her brother's glow; g and soon she will ackowledge her creator upon her return. Now the sacred rituals of the Easter feast approach, where the priest would sacrifice a lamb at the altars in the ancient fashion, to atone for our sins with a pure offering. After being conveyed to Jerusalem on a beaten old donkey, Christ is welcomed with the acclaim of the people, and the multitude crowd round and worship him upon his entry. Wherever it went the multitude ackowledged that he was the king [p210]sprung from the line of great David, and they approach him with suppliant prayers, and worship his divinity.
142Henceforth did resentment consume the nobles of Israel, as did envy with its crude hatred. Their anger, puffed up by their pride, inflamed them. On one side fear of the people terrified them, but on the other the hope for whatever profit they should wish vied to change their minds. Impiety approved what they determined to agree to. So they met in an assembled council, and with unanimity they marked out Jesus alone for death. Wilfully and sinfully, and possessed by an avaricious spirit, Judas h takes part in the wickedness; and he betrays the blameless Lord to the enemy, as he commits his crime for a measly reward, and miserably he will be unhappy through the eternal loss of his soul. Yet he who had forseen all beforehand from the vantage of eternity was ready for his sacrifice on the cross. He invites his disciples as dinner guests to the Easter feast of the sacrificed lamb. But now to give the chaste so much better fare, which will do them good, he instructs their minds in true obedience, and with a pure river, and with their feet cleaned he purifies them, and reclining at the table he sets up a divine dinner. He exchanges the shadow of the body for the heavenly banquet of the soul, and the bread of salvation, because he had dedicated his body to the altar. As we know he receives his dinner guests at this table, purified, as they were, by the complete cleansing of their sins, and he instructs them to stay far from the impure. And he prevents the unclean sins of the impious life, and he seeks out the guiltless, and purifies them, and nourishes them, and gives himself to the worthy, and he instructs them that through him they can be worthy.
167Across the Kidron, i where Phoebus showers Jerusalem with the dawn's rays, a hill rises up, blooming with many an olive on its gentle slope. Here he goes amid the rising shadows of night and alone he departs into the garden. Here bloody sweat drenched his tender body, as in prayer he turned over in his troubled mind how much the father, moved by a just anger, detested sins, and at what price would he grant him peace.
175Meanwhile night envelops the earth in its gloomy cloak with a sin suited to its character. For since he thought himself more safe in the hidden darkness, Judas, surrounded by an armed guard, was here. He tells them that the Lord is here, and orders him to be restrained [p211]very securely - the man upon whom he had once showered kisses! A quivering dread seized the fearful enemy upon this first encounter and he knocked them to the ground. But soon after they were freed from their terror and he yielded; and they seized him as he put up no resistance - just like in a winter's night wolves, arranged in a pack, whom a fierce frenzy, and a lust for booty, assails in their parched throats, and greedily they plunder a tender calf from its fold: thus does the enemy approach their crime. Amid a fearful disturbance a fight breaks out, and also the gentle ear of Malchus, j who charges in ferociously, is cut off by Peter's counter attack. But he orders the weapons to be resheathed and forbids violence - he who suffers violence - and kindly does he care for Malchus' wound. And so he gave himself over voluntarily and went to meet those calling for his surrender. He allows himself to be taken as captive, clearly as the lamb who would, as holy offering, be sacrificed on the notorius altar of the cross. How great is this endurance? How great his love for us? He who compelled himself to want to endure such things, did not abandon his disciple with the false sign of love, although his disciple betrays him with a sign. He soothes those who erred through fear, their hostile minds, their bitter hatred, their biting tounges, the shameful vices of his own people. While they put on his chains and they vie to mock their captive, he remains firm. Thus is the night passed in fleeting shadows.
201With Lucifer k restoring the day, God, the defendant, is now brought before Annas, and the high priest Caiaphas l and is accused of harming piety in an unjust judgement and by such a judge - God who is himself the source of his own vast and everlasting justice! While supplying the truth in response to their questions, he is spitefully beaten. They demand from the Roman Pilate, m who was magistrate, that he be condemned as if guilty. But Pilate declares him innocent and decrees that he be released unharmed, and that he has been convicted by the envy of the nobles. But frightened by the loud din of the people who were roused to madness, and by the threats of the people wanting the rod to be used against him (and their own grandchildren!), Pilate orders him to be held (even if undeservingly) and beaten by the whip, so that if the disturbance could perhaps be quelled thus, his mercy would also alter the minds of the nobles. A choice is granted to the mob, as they fiercely push forward: would they prefer to release Christ, or a robber infamous for pillage and many a murder? The shout [p212]of the people accords with their enraged, cajoling council, and they demand Jesus' death. After the robber is released, Pilate retires; and after washing his hands, in vain he tries to cleanse himself of the crime. He denies that he is to blame, for he yielded to the will of the people - he who could have stopped an impious crime! Thus finally, therefore, the unbridled fury of the wicked nobles is granted, so that he would deliver us through his death from the righteous anger of the Father, and as victor lay waste the infernal Avernus. n Thus consigned to the cross, he is now dragged along, and he is welcomed by the mockeries of the spiteful people. His shoulders turn blue with bloody slashes, his back is lacerated by the fierce whip. His face is spat upon. He is covered with a scarlet cloak, and his temple is shredded by a crown woven with sharp thorns. Blood runs over his cheeks and mouth, his weakened limbs begin to give way, and his hair grows hard with matted blood. In place of a sceptre he is given a brittle cane. In this way they bid the king be well, and with a shameless gesture they deride the eternal king of kings. Even this did not seem enough punishment. For they place a cross upon the shoulders of he who is scarce able to drag his feeble limbs, and they torment Him as He struggles to breathe under the excessive weight. Until a stranger, Simon the Cyrene, o who was by chance then present and looking on, is compelled to aid the weary man. Blessed is he to whom it has fallen to take up those vicissitudes of the sacred burden, and also to bear the glorious symbol of the conquest of hell through death's defeat!
243There was a hill near Jerusalem, behind whose peak at the time in question Phoebus conceals himself. It was called Calvary - a place notorious for the torture and punishment of the wicked. The birds hate its slopes which run with blood, and are covered in gore - from it the cloudy Titan p turns away - nor do any animals chew upon its grazed plains. Stripped of his robe, and hands bound at his back, he is dragged along by a great throng surrounding, and through the street with a crowd of people jeering at the poor wretch. Finally after they have reached the summit of the dire mountain, which this one glorious cross made sacred, he is laid out naked, and his lifeless arms are stretched into a cross by stiff wires, and they drive through his feet and hands with hard nails. His shattered veins [p213]unleash copious rivers of sacred blood. From this spring the health-giving juice of ambrosia flows out for sick mortals, so that Panacea, q who alone can cure leprous spirits, would breathe her pleasing fragrance into the heavens. And not here is a limit set upon their hatred; nor is their anger abated: they give him myrrh laced with poisonous bile; he is crucified amid thiefs, and continually assailed with abuse, and in his thirst he drinks their vinegar.
265O unhappy Jerusalem, and its wicked populace, the degenerate offspring of Isaac, carried off to their own destruction by the abominable furies! The prophecies of the ancient soothsayers were not believed by you; neither so many clear miracles performed in your own presence, nor his forbearance, nor his gentle disposition, nor the chaste integrity of his unblemished life, nor the voice of the highest father sent down from heaven were able to bend your violent spirits, or tame your savage hearts.
274While their minds and eyes feast upon these torments, the savage punishment does not yet satisfy their unbridled fury. He is faint in spirit through their hateful blows; and while seeking the pardon of the enemy themselves, he pities them, and also grants heaven to the robber who confessed his sin. And now heaven and earth, with whatever groan they can muster, try to convey their shared grief for their creator, who labours under such a burden of woes and ekes out his final breaths and the slender remnants of his failing life. Phoebus assumes his mourning clothes, and he brings forth night's silence to a dumb-struck earth, and conceals the alarmed day in night. And although Cynthia was wandering over the other side of the world with her light, nevertheless, so that she would not be deprived of such a great woe, and to free herself from the glory of his bright face, retracing her steps on her opposing chariot, she joins herself to her brother, and envelops herself in dark gloom, as nature wonders that its own laws are abolished. Finally the vanquisher of death and Hell frees himself from the lifeless body. His shining eyes are closed in dark night, as, dying, he bows his head. The lamb on the altar of the cross establishes well enough that he was created by the father. [p214]Thus a most pleasing sacrifice, not destroyed, is offered up to the father on our behalf - he who was victim was also the master of ceremonies. Nature ackowledges God: for the terror-struck earth trembles, and the rocks and stone are split open. And, with the awning having been torn asunder, the inner sanctum of the sacred temple has been made open to view, into which only the high priest is permitted to walk.
302These portents convinced those taken aback by the strangeness of it all; and they compelled them to confess that he was a divinity sent from heaven, the true son of the Thunderer, and they see that the heavens covered in unaccustomed darkness grieved for him, so too the torn-asunder rocks, and the quaking earth; and they see that he had permitted the people in their fury to rage for the undeserved death of their own king.
309The Sun, forced out from his darkness, now seeks out headlong the western waves, and his still-surviving anger holds fast for his lifeless body. For a spear penetrates his cold body with its unyielding metal, and from the bloody slash the recesses of his lungs lie open, and with the blood the last blow poured forth pure waters from his sacred heart.
315However, there are faithful ones present to see to the rites and the duties of the burial, and lament. They swaddle the cold body in clean muslin, and they store the annointed body in a simple vault of cut-out marble. Blessed people, who were allowed to carry out the sacred rites with pleasing devotion, to pour kisses upon the wounds amid profuse tears and to administer the last rights, and finally to both store away the limbs (not wholly destroyed!) of the annointed one, and once covered over entomb them!
324In this way, you born from God, you who, having suffered such great and so many things, marked out the quickest way to eternal life for us, through your death and your life sacrificed for our sins, purify me (a wretch and worthless) with your blood! Allow me to profit from your misfortunes; have pity upon a sinner; restore me to myself; renew the living force to my limbs; and may you allow my mind purged of stain by these wounds of yours to compose itself in its native heaven.
1: 'paβio' in DPS.
2: Although this epithet for God, and its subordinated relative clause, is clearly part of a generic liturgical tradition (see Ambrose Aeterne rerum conditor especially), perhaps the strongest formal and syntactical parallel can be seen in Buchanan, Psalms 68.8-10: 'rerum sancte parens...qui lucida caeli veheris super astra'. Sannazaro, De Partu Virginis III.271-280 offers a condensed and concentrated procession of classicising epithets for God, followed by relative descriptive clauses; he presents elaborate epithets for God throughout his work, usually in apostrophe. Regardless of ultimate inspiration, the language here is redolent of the classicising Christian poem (be it that of the well-known paraphrases of Ambrose or Buchanan, or the poems of Sannazaro), and presents the reader with a clearly defined literary landscape and aesthetic.
4: Buchanan, De Sphaera I.78
6: Cf. this and the previous line to Buchanan, De Sphaera I.80-2.
7: mortalibns in DPS
8: Genesis II.7
9: Virgil, Aeneid V.158; but also Catullus, Carmina LXIV.6-7.
10: glebae for gleba? Cf. Virgil, Aeneid I.532
11: Both life-giving rivers and uncultivated abundance are part of the literary landscape of the Golden Age: cf. Virgil, Eclogues IV.18; and Georgics I.110; 128.
12: Pun on the neuter singular of adjective malus, a, um, (evil) and the noun malum, i (fruit/apple). The noun used here, which is clearly discernable through the vowel quanity revealed in the metre, is the malum, i (apple). See Vulgate, Genesis II.9; and III.5, 22 for the use of the adjective malus, a, um in context.
13: Cf. Virgil, Aeneid I.416-7
14: Cf. Sannazaro, De Partu Virginis I.75-6
15: Virgil, Aeneid VII.169
16: Propertius, Elegies III.7.59
17: Virgil, Georgics I.237; and Aeneid II.268. In both cases the mortal condition is the recipient of divine grace and favour.
18: Virgil, Aeneid I.153
19: Virgil, Aeneid I.142
20: Virgil, Aeneid I.53-4
21: Virgil, Aeneid VII.272
22: This and the previous line: Virgil, Georgics II.458.
23: Statius, Silvae II.6.72
24: The next five lines (128-132) are a presentation of the heavens as they appear at Easter: when the Sun crosses the spring equinox (vernum punctum) - an event which coincided in antiquity with the Sun entering the constellation of Aries (represented by the Phryxei sideris astrum below) - it marks the beginning of Spring. The week following the first full moon after the spring equinox came in the Christian tradition to be the Easter week (this event is articulated by 'Deliaque...luminis orbem' below).
25: Cf. Buchanan, De Sphaera III.419
26: Cf. John XII.12-14
27: Cf. Matthew XXVI.25
28: Cf. Luke XIII.14-17
29: Virgil, Aeneid VI.258
30: Cf. John XVIII.1
31: 'Thoebus' in DPS.
32: Cf. Luke XXII.44
33: Cf. John XVIII.10
34: This and the previous line: John XVIII.13-14, and 24.
35: Matthew XXVII.24-31. Much of the detail and verbal allusions in the next twenty lines come from this passage in the Vulgate.
37: Virgil, Aeneid II.392
38: Virgil, Aeneid IV.136
39: This and the previous three sentences: Virgil, Aeneid XII.418-9.
40: Cf. Matthew XXVII.34; John XIX.29; Mark XV.23; and Luke XXIII.33-36.
41: Juvenal, Satires IV.82
42: Statius, Thebaid XI.565-6
43: Buchanan, Psalms 18.18-19
44: Buchanan, Psalms 137.17
45: Buchanan, De Sphaera IV.57
46: Statius, Thebaid XI.569 - see use of this passage above at line 280.
47: John XIX.34
48: Matthew XXVII.59
49: Buchanan, Psalms 18.74
50: Buchanan, Psalms 18.100
b: The ancient Greek town Epidaurus, sited at the Saronic Gulf, was reputed to be the birthplace of Asclepius, the god of healing and Apollo's son; the rod of Asclepius features a single snake wrapped around a staff (not to be confused with the Caduceus of Mercury, which has two snakes); Chiron: centaur and tutor of Achilles; Hippocrates of Cos: philosopher and founding father of western medicine.
c: ie, incense.
d: In Genesis 1, God commands creation into existence through speech.
e: King Herod of Judaea.
f: A lustra is a period of five years, so Christ had just turned 30, which accords with received wisdom about his approximate age at the time of the Crucifixion.
g: See note to Latin text.
h: Judas Iscariot, Christ's betrayer to the Roman authorities.
i: The Kidron valley lies to the east of ancient Jerusalem, and separates the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives. However, this seems to be a reference to a wadi, or dry riverbed, which runs through the valley and only fills intermittently, or in times of flood.
j: Servant of Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest, who takes part in the arrest of Christ and has his ear cut off by Peter.
k: Literally 'the light bearer', the sun; not Satan.
l: Annas ben Seth and his son-in law Joseph ben Caiaphas were both high priests of Judaea, before whom Christ was tried and condemned.
m: Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judaea, who turned Jesus over to the mob to decide his fate after refusing to personally condemn him.
n: Lake Avernus near Cumae was believed to be an entrance to the underworld (see Aeneid VI), but the name came to be synonymous with the underworld in general.
o: Mark, Matthew and Luke all relate that Simon the Cyrene was compelled to carry Christ's cross.
p: The sun.
q: Panacea: daughter of Asclepius and Epione, and goddess of universal cures.