Boniface Riddle 9: Humilitas cristina fatetur


Date: Mon 26 Jul 2021
Original text:

Hic inter numeror sacras vix sola sorores,
Vestibus in spretis specie quia nigrior exsto.
Multi me spernunt, cunctis dispectior en sum,
In terris nusquam similatur vilior ulla,
5  Libertatis opem dominus sed dabit in aethra:
Ima solo quantum, tantum dio proxima caelo.
Terras indutus me Christus sanguine salvat;
Ardua caelorum conscendet culmina nullus,
Si me forte caret, propria nec sorte sorores.
10  Cum domino Christo una sit carissima sponsa!
Ruricolae et reges, pueri innuptaeque puellae,
Innumeri heroes nati melioribus annis,
Sanctorum excellens martyrum pulchra corona,
Terribilesque viri meritis cum matribus almis:
15  In tanto numero, excepta me, viribus audax,
Altithroni nullus capiet pia gaudia regis,
Ni iugiter nutrix et tutrix omnibus adsim,
Aeterni placans et mulcens pectora regis.
Flebilis et vacuus vocitatur mente monachus,
20  Acta mea pravo tumidus si corde refutat.
Terrigenis paucis conprobor amabilis hospes,
Et tamen altithroni nato lectissima virgo.
Trano comes plures ducens super aethra phalanges,
Viribus et sponsi fidens sum sancta virago.
25  regi regnorum mea simplex foedera servo.


Here, I alone am barely counted among the holy sisters
because I am darker in appearance, in despised clothes.
Behold! Many reject me and everyone looks at me,
and never does anyone on earth appear cheaper,
5  but the Lord will reward me with freedom in heaven:
as much as I am in the lowest place, I am also nearest to divine heaven.
Christ, who wore me, saved the earth with his blood;
no one will climb the lofty heights of heaven
if they happen to lack me or my sisters,
10  since I am the dearest bride of Christ the Lord!
Peasants and kings, boys and maidens,
innumerable heroes born in better times,
a beautiful and exulted circle of the saintly martyrs,
men venerable for their merits, with indulgent mothers:
15  in such a number, confident in their powers, without me
none of them will gain the sacred joys of the high throned king,
unless I, nursemaid and tutor, am always with them,
soothing and softening the heart of the eternal king.
A ruler is called lamentable and thoughtless
20  if they arrogantly spurn my deeds with a wicked heart.
I prove to be a loveable guest for few earth-dwellers,
but a most excellent maiden for the son of the high throned one.
A companion, leading many battalions, I sail upon the sky,
and I am a holy warrior, trusting the might of the groom.
25  Honest, I keep my compacts with the king of kings.

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This edition is based on Ernst Dümmler, (ed.). Poetae Latini aevi Carolini, Volume 1. Berlin, MGH/Weidmann, 1881. Pages 1-15. Available online here.

Note that this riddle appears as No. 9 (De virtutibus) in Glorie’s edition and No. 9 in Orchard’s edition.

Line 4, sit > sim, following Andy Orchard (ed. & trans.). The Old English and Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2021. Page 197.