Hadewijch of Antwerp

(Annunciation by Carlo Crivelli)

You who want
seek the Oneness

There you
will find
the clear mirror
already waiting

– Hadewijch of Antwerp


Woke up this morning, took a walk early with Mary and Sophie. On the way home, a flight of geese flew over us, concealed by low flying cloud. You could hear their calls as they flew over. It reminded me of the wild hunt. It stirred my mind back into times before. So it seems that the weather has taken a change, and the season is coming on. There is suddenly a chill at night, just like that, dew on the ground and cool in the morning. There was a full moon last night, a bit of glory, a healthy dose of beauty. We had a small gathering for our friend Cheryl, who turned 60 yesterday, joining me like so many others as of late. Time flies.

This entry came as a surprise to me, a stumble here, a chance encounter there constructed it. We are featuring poetry for Hadewijch of Antwerp, who until yesterday I had never been aware of. Her work is superb. Little is known of her actual life, what has survived is contained in letters, and her poetry from what I have understood. The music came through my friend Ibn, an off shoot of what he sent me. Since his posting to me I have been immersed in the Setar and all it’s glories again. It has been awhile, several decades in fact since I spent time listening to it. I have gone with the Italian renaissance for art today, “Annunciation” by Carlo Crivelli has long been a favourite of mine. I hope you enjoy this entry!

I was talking blogs to friends on a list that I am on yesterday. I admire people who can bring their thoughts to bear on a subject and give it some depth. The world is better perhaps for this emerging form of literature. It has a nice taste of innovation to it. I know that I have enlarged my appreciation for different subjects since the advent of this literature form. Some of the blogosphere seems to be superseding journalism, which sadly looks like it is in decline, or perhaps just going through a change. I see some pretty shoddy work of late on the traditional press pages and in the newspapers.

I would like to recommend a couple of blogs. Here are there addresses:
Isispolis & C. LaVielle’s Book Jacket Blog both are well worth your time visiting!


On The Menu:
Masoud Shaari & Christophe Rezaï – Complaint
The Old Man and the Fairies
Hadewijch of Antwerp Poems
On Hadewijch
Massoud Shaari & Christophe Rezaï – Fervor Of Love

Masoud Shaari & Christophe Rezaï – Complaint


The Old Man and the Fairies
(from Wales)

Many years ago the Welsh mountains were full of fairies. People used to go by moonlight to see them dancing, for they knew where they would dance by seeing green rings in the grass.
There was an old man living in those days who used to frequent the fairs that were held across the mountains. One day he was crossing the mountains to a fair, and when he got to a lonely valley he sat down, for he was tired, and he dropped off to sleep, and his bag fell down by his side. When he was sound asleep the fairies came and carried him off, bag and all, and took him under the earth, and when he awoke he found himself in a great palace of gold, full of fairies dancing and singing. And they took him and showed him everything, the splendid gold room and gardens, and they kept dancing round him until he fell asleep.

When he was asleep they carried him back to the same spot where they had found him, and when he awoke he thought he had been dreaming, so he looked for his bag, and got hold of it, but he could hardly lift it. When he opened it he found it was nearly filled with gold.

He managed to pick it up, and turning round, he went home.

When he got home, his wife Kaddy said, “What’s to do, why haven’t you been to the fair?”

“I’ve got something here,” he said, and showed his wife the gold.

“Why, where did you get that?”

But he wouldn’t tell her. Since she was curious, like all women, she kept worrying him all night — for he’d put the money in a box under the bed — so he told her about the fairies.

Next morning, when he awoke, he thought he’d go to the fair and buy a lot of things, and he went to the box to get some of the gold, but found it full of cockle-shells.

Hadewijch of Antwerp Poems

The madness of love
Is a rich fief;
Anyone who recognized this
Would not ask Love for anything else:
It can unite Opposites
And reverse the paradox.
I am declaring the truth about this:
The madness of love makes bitter what was sweet,
It makes the stranger a kinsman,
And it makes the smallest the most proud.

To souls who have not reached such love,
I give this good counsel:
If they cannot do more,
Let them beg Love for amnesty,
And serve with faith,
According to the counsel of noble Love,
And think: ‘It can happen,
Love’s power is so great!’
Only after his death
Is a man beyond cure.

Love has subjugated me:
To me this is no surprise,
For she is strong and I am weak.
She makes me
Unfree of myself,
Continually against my will.
She does with me what she wishes;
Nothing of myself remains to me;
Formerly I was rich,
Now I am poor: everything is lost in love.

Love has seven names.
Do you know what they are?
Rope, Light, Fire, Coal
make up its domain.

The others, also good,
more modest but alive:
Dew, Hell, the Living Water.
I name them here (for they
are in the Scriptures),
explaining every sign
for virtue and form.
I tell the truth in signs.
Love appears every day
for one who offers love.
That wisdom is enough.

Love is a ROPE, for it ties
and holds us in its yoke.
It can do all, nothing snaps it.
You who love must know.

The meaning of LIGHT
is known to those who
offer gifts of love,
approved or condemned.

The Scripture tell us
the symbol of COAL:
the one sublime gift
God gives the intimate soul.

Under the name of FIRE, luck,
bad luck, joy or no joy,
consumes. We are seized
by the same heat from both.

When everything is burnt
in its own violence, the DEW,
coming like a breeze, pauses
and brings the good.

LIVING WATER (its sixth name)
flows and ebbs
as my love grows
and disappears from sight.

HELL (I feel its torture)
damns, covering the world.
Nothing escapes. No one has grace
to see a way out.

Take care, you who wish
to deal with names
for love. Behind their sweetness
and wrath, nothing endures.
Nothing but wounds and kisses.

Though love appears far off,
you will move into its depth.

To Live Out What I am

My distress is great and unknown to men.
They are cruel to me, for they wish to dissuade me
From all that the forces of Love urge me to.
They do not understand it, and I cannot explain it to them.
I must then live out what I am;
What love counsels my spirit,
In this is my being: for this reason I will do my best.

Whatever vicissitudes men lead me through for Love’s sake
I wish to stand firm and take no harm from them.
For I understand from the nobility of my soul
That in suffering for sublime Love, I conquer.
I will therefore gladly surrender myself
In pain, in repose, in dying, in living,
For I know the command of lofty fidelity.

I do not complain of suffering for Love:
It becomes me always to submit to her,
Whether she commands in storm or in stillness.
One can know her only in herself.
This is an unconceivable wonder,
Which has thus filled my heart
And makes me stray in a wild desert.

On Hadewijch:

We know of Hadewijch only what comes from her writings. She wrote in the Brabant dialect of Middle Dutch, and she perhaps came from the area around Antwerp. She knew French and Latin and was familiar with contemporary chivalric poetry. She appears to have been a beguine, perhaps the mistress of a beguinage.

At some point she was criticized for her views, perhaps forced out of her community, and separated from women for whom she cared. Her need to keep in touch with them and to continue to teach and encourage them seems to have led to her writings: 31 letters (Brieven), 14 descriptions of visions (Visioenen), 45 poems in stanzaic form (Strofische Gedichten), and 16 to 29 poems in mixed form (Mengeldichten).

The only question about attribution comes with regard to Mengeldichten. The last 13 poems of that work were originally believed to be by Hadewijch but later attributed by some scholars to an anonymous beguine of the later 1200s or early 1300s; she is usually called Hadewijch II. Some now believe that the last 5 of the 13 are by yet a third poet (Hadewijch III), whose thoughts seem closer to those of Marguerite Porete. Still other scholars maintain the original attribution of the whole Mengeldichten to the original Hadewijch.

Hadewijch also compiled a “List of the Perfect,” naming 86 persons, living and dead, whom she described as “clothed in love”; the list includes a beguine who had been executed, probably in 1236. It is from the datable references in this list that Hadewijch has been assigned to the mid-1200s.

Massoud Shaari & Christophe Rezaï – Fervor Of Love


(Magdalene – Carlo Crivelli)

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