The Venerable Bede med. illum MS, Engelberg

from: A History of the English Church and People
(BOOK 4, ch. 24)

How in the monastery (of the Abbess Hilda) there was a brother to whom the gift of singing was divinely given

Quod in monasterio eius fuerit frater, cui donum canendi sit divinitus concessum

     In this monastery of Abbess [Hilda] there was a certain brother made notable by a grace of God specially given, that he was able to make songs fit for religion and piety; so much so that whatever of the Sacred Scriptures he learned from those who expounded them, he composed in poetic verse, put together with great sweetness and compunction of heart in his own, that is to say the English language.

  In huius monasterio abbatissae fuit frater quidam divina gratia specialiter insignis, quia carmina religioni et pietati apta facere solebat; ita ut quicquid ex divinis litteris per interpretes disceret, hoc ipse post pusillum verbis poeticis maxima suavitate et conpunctione conpositis in sua, id est, Anglorum lingua proferret.

     Through his songs the souls of many were often enkindled to contempt of [this present] age and a desire for the heavenly life.  And indeed, others too among the English people after him attempted to make religious poems; but no one could match his skill.  For he himself learned the art of singing without being taught by anyone or receiving anyone's help: rather, he received freely from God the gift of singing.  And therefore he could never compose any frivolous or empty poem: only things pertaining to religion did his religous tongue proclaim.

  Cuius carminibus multorum saepe animi ad contemtum saeculi, et appetitum sunt vitae caelestis accensi. Et quidem et alii post illum in gente Anglorum religiosa poemata facere tentabant; sed nullus eum aequiparare potuit.  Namque ipse non ab hominibus, neque per hominem institutus canendi artem didicit; sed divinitus adiutus gratis canendi donum accepit.  Unde nihil unquam frivoli et super-vacui poematis facere potuit; sed ea tantummodo quae ad religionem pertinent, religiosam eius linguam decebant.

    He  had been settled in secular life for a long time, until he was well advanced in age; and during this time he had learned no songs.

   Siquidem in habitu saeculari usque ad tempora provectioris aetatis constitutus nil carminum aliquando didicerat.

And so it was that sometimes at the festive table, when all were set to be merry, and had agreed that each man should sing in turn; he, when he saw the harp coming near him, would rise in the midst of supper, leave, and return to his home.

Unde nonnunquam in convivio, cum esset laetitiae causa decretum ut omnes per ordinem cantare deberent, ille ubi adpropinquare sibi citharam cernebat, surgebat, media coena et egressus ad suam domum repedabat

   And as he did so on a particular occasion, leaving the house of feasting, he went out to the stable of the beasts which he had been assigned to watch that night.

  Quod dum tempore quodam faceret, et relicta domo convivii egressus esset ad stabula iumentorum quorum ei custodia nocte illa erat delegata,

And having laid his limbs to rest at the appropriate hour, there stood by him in a dream a certain man who greeted him and called him by name, saying:

ibique hora competenti membra dedisset sopori, adstitit ei quidam per somnium, eumque salutans, ac suo appellans nomine :

“Caedmon, sing something for me!”

“Caedmon,” inquit, “canta mihi aliquid.”

Whereupon he answered, saying,

At ille respondens,

“I do not know how to sing; that is the reason why I left the feast for this secluded place - because I cannot sing.”

“Nescio,” inquit,  “cantare; nam et ideo de convivio egressus huc secessi, quia cantare non poteram.”

The man who addressed him then said:

Rursum ille, qui cum eo loquebatur

“But you shall sing to me.”

“Attamen,” ait, “mihi cantare habes,”

“What should I sing?” he replied.

“Quid,” inquit, “debeo cantare?”

“Sing of the beginning of all creatures,” the other answered.

At ille, “Canta,” inquit, “principium creaturarum.”

        And he began to sing in praise of God the Creator, verses which he had never heard before, of which the sense is this:

    Quo accepto responso, statim ipse coepit cantare in laudem Dei Conditoris versus, quos nunquam audierat, quorum iste est sensus:

Now ought we to praise
the Maker of the heavenly kingdom,

Nunc laudare debemus auctorem regni caelestis,

the power of the Creator and His counsel,

   potentiam Creatoris, et consilium illius,

 the acts of the Father of glory;

   facta Patris gloriae;

how He, being God eternal,

quomodo ille, cum sit aeternus Deus,

 was the author of all miracles;

omnium miraculorum auctor exstitit;

Who first created Heaven for the children of men,

qui primo filiis hominum

for the top of their dwelling;

 caelum pro culmine tecti,

and thereafter the mighty keeper of humankind created the earth.

dehinc terram custos humana generis   omnipotens creavit.

   This is the meaning, but not the exact order of the words he sang in his sleep.

               Hic est sensus, non autem ordo ipse verborum quae dormiens ille canebat:

For songs, however well they are made, cannot be easily translated into another language without loss to their grace and dignity.

neque enim possunt carmina, quamvis optime composita, ex alia in aliam linguam ad verbum sine detrimento sui decoris ac dignitatis transferri.

           Now on rising from sleep he remembered all the things he had sung in his dream; and he slowly began to add to that song more words worthy of God.

               Exsurgens autem a somno, cuncta quae dormiens cantaverat memoriter retinuit, et eis mox plura in eundem modum verba Deo digni carminis adiunxit.

And coming on the following day to his superior, the town sherrif, he told him of the gift he had received.

Veniensque mane ad villicum qui sibi praeerat, quid doni percepisset indicavit,

           And being taken before the Abbess (Hilda) he was commanded in the presence of many learned men to tell his dream and repeat the song, so that by their judgement the origin of it might be determined.

atque ad abbatissam perductus, iussus est, multis doctoribus viris praesentibus, indicare somnium et dicere carmen, ut universorum iudicio quid vel unde esset quod referebat, probaretur.

Thus it seemed to them all that a heavenly grace had been granted to him by the Lord.

Visumque est omnibus, caelesem ei a Domino concessam esse gratiam.

And they explained to him a passage of scriptural history or doctrine, asking him to render it into verse if he could.

Exponebantque illi quendam sacrae historiae sive doctrinae sermonem, praecipientes eum, si posset, hunc in modulationem carminis transferre.

He promised to do this, and returned the next morning with excellent verses as they had commanded him.

At ille suscepto negotio abiit, et mane rediens, optimo carmine quod iubebatur, compositum reddidit.

    Thus the abbess came to embrace the grace of God in the man, and advised him to abandon secular life and take the monastic habit.

Unde mox abbatissa amplexata gratiam Dei in viro, saecularem illum habitum relinquere, et monachicum suscipere propositum docuit,

When he did so she placed him in the company of brothers who were with her; and she ordered him to be instructed in the whole course of sacred history.

susceptumque in monasterium cum omnibus suis fratrum cohorti adsociavit, iussitque illum seriem sacrae historiae doceri.

           So he, storing in his memory all he had learned, ruminated upon it like one of the clean beasts, transfoming it into sweet song.

 At ipse cuncta quae audiendo discere poterat, rememorando secum et quasi mundum animal ruminando, in carmen dulcissimum convertebat;

And by melodiously singing it again, he would turn his instructors into hearers.

suaviusque resonando, doctores suos vicissim auditores sui faciebat.

He sang of the creation of the world, of the beginnings of humankind; of all the stories of Genesis, of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, and their entering into the land of promise; and of many other stories from the Holy Scriptures.

  Canebat autem de creatione mundi, et origine humani generis, et tota Genesis historia, de egressu Israel ex Aegypto et ingressu in terram repromissionis, de aliis plurimis sacrae Scripturae historiis,

He sang of the Incarnation of the Lord, of his passion, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven, of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the teaching of the Apostles.

de incarnatione Dominica, passione, resurrectione, et ascensione in caelum, de Spiritus Sancti adventu, et apostolorum doctrina.

Also he would compose songs of the dread judgement to come, of the terror of the pains of hell, and the sweetness of the kingdom of Heaven.

Item de terrore futuri iudicii, et horrore poenae gehennalis, ac dulcedine regni caelestis multa carmina faciebat;

In addition, he made many other songs concerning the divine benefits and judgements, by which he sought to turn his hearers from love of wickedness, and to inspire them to love and to be ready to do good.

sed et alia perplura de beneficiis et iudiciis divinis, in quibus cunctis homines ab amore scelerum abstrahere, ad dilectionem vero et sollertiam bonae actionis excitare curabat.

           For he was a man very devout and humbly obedient to the discipline of the rules; zealous and ready to hotly rebuke those who sought to follow another course.  And so he crowned his life with a happy end.

   Erat enim vir multum religiosus, et regularibus disciplinis humiliter subditus; adversum vero illos qui aliter facere volebant, zelo magni fervoris accensus: unde et pulchro vitam suam fine conclusit.





 Bede (673-735), 


Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of England A.M. Sellar (Tr.) London: George Bell and Sons, 1907 Latin :Historia Ecclesiastica Bedae: PL 95, 247-252,

CHAP. XII. How one in the province of the Northumbrians, rose from the dead, and related many things which he had seen, some to be greatly dreaded and some to be desired. [Circ. 696 A.D.]


AT this time (c.696 AD) a memorable miracle, and like to those of former days, was wrought in Britain; for, to the end that the living might be roused from the death of the soul, a certain man, who had been some time dead, rose again to the life of the body, and related many memorable things that he had seen; some of which I have thought fit here briefly to describe. There was a certain householder in that district of the Northumbrians which is called Incuneningum, who led a godly life, with all his house. This man fell sick, and his sickness daily increasing, he was brought to extremity, and died in the beginning of the night; but at dawn he came to life again, and suddenly sat up, whereat all those that sat about the body weeping fled away in great terror, only his wife, who loved him better, though trembling and greatly afraid, remained with him. And he comforting her, said, “Fear not, for I am now in very deed risen from death whereof I was holden, and permitted again to live among men; nevertheless, hereafter I must not live as I was wont, but after a very different manner.” Then rising immediately, he went to the oratory of the little town, and continuing in prayer till day, forthwith divided all his substance into three parts; one whereof he gave to his wife, another to his children, and the third, which he kept himself, he straightway distributed among the poor. Not long after, being set free from the cares of this world, he came to the monastery of Mailros, which is almost enclosed by the winding of the river Tweed, and having received the tonsure, went apart into a place of abode which the abbot had provided, and there he continued till the day of his death, in so great contrition of mind and mortifying of the body, that even if his tongue had been silent, his life would have declared that he had seen many things either to be dreaded or coveted, which were hidden from other men.

His temporibus [DCXCVI] miraculum memorabile, et antiquorum simile in Brittania factum est. Namque ad [0247C] excitationem viventium de morte animae, quidam aliquandiu mortuus ad vitam resurrexit corporis, et multa memoratu digna quae viderat, narravit; e quibus hic aliqua breviter perstringenda esse putavi. Erat ergo paterfamilias in regione Nordanhymbrorum quae vocatur  Incuneningum, religiosam cum domo sua gerens vitam; qui infirmitate corporis tactus, et hac crescente per dies ad extrema perductus, primo tempore noctis defunctus est; sed diluculo reviviscens ac repente residens, omnes qui corpori flentes assederant, timore immenso perculsos in fugam convertit: uxor tantum quae [Al. add. eum] amplius amabat, quamvis multum tremens et pavida, remansit: quam ille consolatus: «Noli, inquit, timere, quia jam vere resurrexi a morte qua tenebar, [0247D] et apud homines sum iterum vivere permissus; non tamen ea mihi qua ante consueram conversatione, sed multum dissimili ex hoc tempore vivendum est.» Statimque surgens abiit ad villulae oratorium, et [0248A] usque ad diem in oratione persistens, mox omnem quam possederat substantiam in tres divisit portiones, e quibus unam conjugi, alteram filiis tradidit, tertiam sibi ipse [Al., sibi ipsi] retentans, statim pauperibus distribuit. Nec multo post saeculi curis absolutus ad monasterium  Mailros, quod Tuidi fluminis circumflexu maxima ex parte clauditur, pervenit; acceptaque tonsura, locum secretae mansionis quam praeviderat abbas, intravit: et ibi usque ad diem mortis in tanta mentis et corporis contritione duravit, ut multa illum, quae alios laterent, vel horrenda, vel desideranda vidisse, etiamsi lingua sileret, vita loqueretur.


Thus he related what he had seen. “He that led me had a countenance full of light, and shining raiment, and we went in silence, as it seemed to me, towards the rising of the summer sun. And as we walked we came to a broad and deep valley of infinite length; it lay on our left, and one side of it was exceeding terrible with raging flames, the other no less intolerable for violent hail and cold snows drifting and sweeping through all the place. Both sides were full of the souls of men which seemed to be tossed from one side to the other as it were by a violent storm; for when they could no longer endure the fervent heat, the hapless souls leaped into the midst of the deadly cold; and finding no rest there, they leaped back again to be burnt in the midst of the unquenchable flames. Now whereas an innumerable multitude of misshapen spirits were thus tormented far and near with this interchange of misery, as far as I could see, without any interval of rest, I began to think that peradventure this might be Hell, of whose intolerable torments I had often heard men talk. My guide, who went before me, answered to my thought, saying, ‘Think not so, for this is not the Hell you believe it to be.’

Narrabat autem [Al., enim] hoc modo quod viderat: «Lucidus, inquiens, aspectu, et clarus erat indumento [0248B] qui me ducebat. Incedebamus autem tacentes, ut videbatur mihi, contra ortum solis solstitialem; cumque ambularemus, devenimus ad vallem multae latitudinis ac profunditatis, infinitae autem longitudinis; quae ad laevam nobis sita, unum latus flammis ferventibus nimium terribile, alterum furenti grandine ac frigore nivium [Al., nimium] omnia perflante atque verrente non minus intolerabile praeferebat. Utrumque autem erat animabus hominum plenum, quae vicissim hinc inde videbantur quasi tempestatis impetu jactari. Cum enim vim fervoris immensi tolerare non possent, prosiliebant miserae in medium frigoris infesti: et cum neque ibi quippiam requiei invenire valerent, resiliebant rursus urendae in medium flammarum inextinguibilium. [0248C] Cumque hac infelici vicissitudine longe lateque, prout aspicere poteram, sine ulla quietis intercapedine innumerabilis spirituum deformium multitudo torqueretur, cogitare coepi quod hic fortasse esset infernus, de cujus tormentis intolerabilibus narrare saepius audivi. Respondit cogitationi meae ductor qui me praecedebat: Non hoc, inquiens, suspiceris; non enim hic infernus est ille quem putas.

“When he had led me farther by degrees, sore dismayed by that dread sight, on a sudden I saw the place before us begin to grow dark and filled with shadows. When we entered into them, the shadows by degrees grew so thick, that I could see nothing else, save only the darkness and the shape and garment of him that led me. As we went on ‘through the shades in the lone night,’ lo! on a sudden there appeared before us masses of foul flame constantly rising as it were out of a great pit, and falling back again into the same. When I had been led thither, my guide suddenly vanished, and left me alone in the midst of darkness and these fearful sights. As those same masses of fire, without intermission, at one time flew up and at another fell back into the bottom of the abyss, I perceived that the summits of all the flames, as they ascended were full of the spirits of men, which, like sparks flying upwards with the smoke, were sometimes thrown on high, and again, when the vapours of the fire fell, dropped down into the depths below. Moreover, a stench, foul beyond compare, burst forth with the vapours, and filled all those dark places.

«At cum me hoc spectaculo tam horrendo perterritum paulatim in ulteriora produceret, vidi subito ante nos obscurari incipere loca, et tenebris omnia repleri. Quas cum intraremus, in tantum paulisper condensatae sunt, ut nihil praeter ipsas aspicerem, excepta dumtaxat specie et veste ejus qui me ducebat. Et cum progrederemur sola sub nocte per umbras, [0248D] ecce subito apparent ante nos crebri flammarum tetrarum globi, ascendentes quasi de puteo magno, rursumque decidentes in eumdem. Quo cum perductus essem, repente ductor meus disparuit, ac [0249A] me solum in medio tenebrarum et horridae [Al., horrendae] visionis reliquit. At cum iidem globi ignium sine intermissione modo alta peterent, modo ima baratri repeterent, cerno omnia quae ascendebant fastigia flammarum plena esse spiritibus hominum, qui instar favillarum cum fumo ascendentium nunc ad sublimiora projicerentur, nunc retractis ignium vaporibus relaberentur in profunda [Al., profundum].

“Having stood there a long time in much dread, not knowing what to do, which way to turn, or what end awaited me, on a sudden I heard behind me the sound of a mighty and miserable lamentation, and at the same time noisy laughter, as of a rude multitude insulting captured enemies. When that noise, growing plainer, came up to me, I beheld a crowd of evil spirits dragging five souls of men, wailing and shrieking, into the midst of the darkness, whilst they themselves exulted and laughed. Among those human souls, as I could discern, there was one shorn like a clerk, one a layman, and one a woman. The evil spirits that dragged them went down into the midst of the burning pit; and it came to pass that as they went down deeper, I could no longer distinguish between the lamentation of the men and the laughing of the devils, yet I still had a confused sound in my ears. In the meantime, some of the dark spirits ascended from that flaming abyss, and running forward, beset me on all sides, and with their flaming eyes and the noisome fire which they breathed forth from their mouths and nostrils, tried to choke me; and threatened to lay hold on me with fiery tongs, which they had in their hands, yet they durst in no wise touch me, though they assayed to terrify me. Being thus on all sides encompassed with enemies and shades of darkness, and casting my eyes hither and thither if haply anywhere help might be found whereby I might be saved, there appeared behind me, on the way by which I had come, as it were, the brightness of a star shining amidst the darkness; which waxing greater by degrees, came rapidly towards me: and when it drew near, all those evil spirits, that sought to carry me away with their tongs, dispersed and fled.

Sed et foetor incomparabilis cum eisdem [Al., ejusdem] vaporibus ebulliens, omnia illa tenebrarum loca replebat. Et cum diutius ibi pavidus consisterem, utpote incertus quid agerem, quo verterem gressum, qui me [Al., qui mihi] finis maneret: audio subitum [Al., subito] post terga sonitum immanissimi fletus ac miserrimi, simul et cachinnum [0249B] crepitantem quasi vulgi indocti captis hostibus insultantis. Ut autem sonitus idem clarior redditus ad me usque pervenit, considero turbam malignorum spirituum, quae quinque [Al. om. quinque] animas hominum moerentes ejulantesque, ipsa multum [Al., vero] exultans et cachinnans medias illas trahebat in tenebras: e quibus videlicet hominibus, ut dignoscere potui, quidam erat adtonsus ut clericus, quidam laicus, quaedam femina. Trahentes autem eos maligni spiritus descenderunt in medium [Al., medio] baratri illius ardentis; factumque est ut cum longius subeuntibus eis, fletum hominum, et risum daemoniorum clare discernere nequirem, sonum tamen adhuc promiscuum in auribus haberem. Interea ascenderunt quidam spirituum obscurorum de abysso [0249C] illa flammivoma, et adcurrentes circumdederunt me, atque oculis flammantibus, et de ore ac naribus ignem putidum efflantes angebant, forcipibus quoque igneis quos tenebant in manibus, minitabantur me comprehendere, nec tamen me ullatenus contingere, tametsi terrere praesumebant. Qui cum undiqueversum hostibus et caecitate tenebratum conclusus huc illucque oculos circumferrem, si forte alicunde quid auxilii quo salvarer, adveniret, apparuit retro via [Al., viam] qua veneram quasi fulgor stellae meantis inter tenebras, qui paulatim crescens et ad me ocius festinans ubi adpropinquavit, dispersi sunt et aufugerunt omnes qui me forcipibus rapere quaerebant spiritus infesti.


“Now he, whose approach put them to flight, was the same that led me before; who, then turning towards the right, began to lead me, as it were, towards the rising of the winter sun, and having soon brought me out of the darkness, led me forth into an atmosphere of clear light. While he thus led me in open light, I saw a vast wall before us, the length on either side, and the height whereof, seemed to be altogether boundless. I began to wonder why we went up to the wall, seeing no door in it, nor window, nor any way of ascent. But when we came to the wall, we were presently, I know not by what means, on the top of it, and lo! there was a wide and pleasant plain full of such fragrance of blooming flowers the the marvellous sweetness of the scents immediately dispelled the foul stench of the dark furnace which had filled my nostrils. So great was the light shed over all this place that it seemed to exceed the brightness of the day, or the rays of the noontide sun. In this field were innumerable companies of men clothed in white, and many seats of rejoicing multitudes. As he led me through the midst of bands of happy inhabitants, I began to think that this perchance might be the kingdom of Heaven, of which I had often heard tell. He answered to my thought, saying, ‘Nay, this is not the kingdom of Heaven, as you think.’

«Ille autem qui adveniens eos fugavit erat ipse [0249D] qui me ante ducebat: qui mox conversus ad dexterum iter, quasi contra ortum solis brumalem me ducere coepit. Nec mora, exemptum tenebris in auras me serenae lucis eduxit: cumque me in luce aperta duceret, vidi ante nos murum permaximum, cujus neque longitudini hinc vel inde, neque altitudini ullus esse terminus videretur. Coepi autem mirari quare ad murum accederemus, cum in eo nullam januam vel fenestram vel ascensum alicubi conspicerem. Cum ergo pervenissemus ad murum, statim nescio quo ordine fuimus in summitate ejus. Et ecce ibi campus erat latissimus ac laetissimus, tantaque fragrantia vernantium flosculorum plenus, ut omnem mox foetorem tenebrosae fornacis, qui me pervaserat, [0250A] effugaret admirandi hujus suavitas odoris. Tanta autem lux cuncta ea loca perfuderat, ut omni splendore diei, sive solis meridiani radiis videretur esse praeclarior. Erantque in hoc campo innumera hominum albatorum conventicula, sedesque plurimae agminum laetantium. Cumque inter choros felicium incolarum medios me duceret, cogitare coepi quod hoc fortasse esset regnum caelorum, de quo praedicari saepius audivi. Respondit ille cogitatui meo: Non, inquiens, non [Al. om. non] hoc est regnum caelorum quod autumas.

“When we had also passed those mansions of blessed spirits, and gone farther on, I saw before me a much more beautiful light than before, and therein heard sweet sounds of singing, and so wonderful a fragrance was shed abroad from the place, that the other which I had perceived before and thought so great, then seemed to me but a small thing; even as that wondrous brightness of the flowery field, compared with this which I now beheld, appeared mean and feeble. When I began to hope that we should enter that delightful place, my guide, on a sudden stood still; and straightway turning, led me back by the way we came.

«Cumque procedentes transissemus, et has beatorum mansiones spirituum, aspicio ante nos multo majorem luminis gratiam quam prius; in qua etiam vocem cantantium dulcissimam audivi; sed et odoris [0250B] fragantia miri tanta de loco effundebatur, ut is quem antea degustans quasi maximum rebar, jam permodicus mihi odor videretur: sicut etiam lux illa campi florentis eximia, in comparatione ejus quae nunc apparuit lucis, tenuissima prorsus videbatur, et parva. In cujus amoenitatem loci cum nos intraturos sperarem, repente ductor substitit; nec mora, gressum retorquens, ipsa me qua venimus via reduxit.

“In our return, when we came to those joyous mansions of the white-robed spirits, he said to me, ‘Do you know what all these things are which you have seen?’ I answered, ‘No,’ and then he said, ‘That valley which you beheld terrible with flaming fire and freezing cold, is the place in which the souls of those are tried and punished, who, delaying to confess and amend their crimes, at length have recourse to repentance at the point of death, and so go forth from the body; but nevertheless because they, even at their death, confessed and repented, they shall all be received into the kingdom of Heaven at the day of judgement; but many are succoured before the day of judgement, by the prayers of the living and their alms and fasting, and more especially by the celebration of Masses. Moreover that foul flaming pit which you saw, is the mouth of Hell, into which whosoever falls shall never be delivered to all eternity.

«Cumque reversi [Al., reversione] perveniremus ad mansiones illas laetas spirituum candidatorum, dixit mihi: Scis quae sint ista omnia quae vidisti? Respondi ego. Non. Et ait: Vallis illa quam aspexisti flammis ferventibus et frigoribus horrenda rigidis, ipse est locus in quo examinandae et castigandae sunt [0250C] animae illorum, qui differentes confiteri et emendare scelera [Al. add. sua] quae fecerant, in ipso tandem mortis articulo ad poenitentiam confugiunt, et sic de corpore exeunt: qui tamen quia confessionem et poenitentiam vel in morte habuerunt, omnes in die judicii ad regnum coelorum perveniunt [Al., pervenient). Multos autem preces viventium et eleemosynae et jejunia et maxime celebratio missarum, ut etiam ante diem judicii liberentur, adjuvant. Porro puteus ille flammivomus ac putidus quem vidisti, ipsum est os gehennae, in quo quicumque semel inciderit nunquam inde liberabitur in aevum.

This flowery place, in which you see this fair and youthful company, all bright and joyous, is that into which the souls of those are received who, indeed, when they leave the body have done good works, but who are not so perfect as to deserve to be immediately admitted into the kingdom of Heaven; yet they shall all, at the day of judgement, behold Christ, and enter into the joys of His kingdom; for such as are perfect in every word and deed and thought, as soon as they quit the body, forthwith enter into the kingdom of Heaven; in the neighbourhood whereof that place is, where you heard the sound of sweet singing amidst the savour of a sweet fragrance and brightness of light. As for you, who must now return to the body, and again live among men, if you will seek diligently to examine your actions, and preserve your manner of living and your words in righteousness and simplicity, you shall, after death, have a place of abode among these joyful troops of blessed souls which you behold. For when I left you for awhile, it was for this purpose, that I might learn what should become of you.’ When he had said this to me, I much abhorred returning to the body, being delighted with the sweetness and beauty of the place which I beheld, and with the company of those I saw in it. Nevertheless, I durst not ask my guide anything; but thereupon, on a sudden, I found myself, I know not how, alive among men.”

Locus vero iste florifer, in quo pulcherrimam hanc juventutem jocundari ac fulgere conspicis, ipse est in quo recipiuntur animae eorum qui in bonis [0250D] quidem operibus de corpore exeunt, non tamen sunt tantae perfectionis, ut in regnum caelorum statim mereantur introduci qui tamen omnes in die judicii ad visionem Christi et gaudia regni caelestis intrabunt. Nam quicumque in omni verbo et opere et cogitatione perfecti sunt, mox de corpore egressi ad regnum caeleste perveniunt: ad cujus vicina (Al., vicinia) pertinet locus ille, ubi sonum cantilenae dulcis cum odore suavitatis ac splendore lucis audisti. Tu autem quia nunc ad corpus reverti et rursum inter homines vivere debes, si actus tuos curiosius discutere, et mores sermonesque tuos in rectitudine ac simplicitate servare studueris, accipies et ipse post mortem locum mansionis inter haec [0251A] quae cernis agmina laetabunda spirituum beatorum. Namque ego cum ad tempus abscessissem a te, ad hoc feci ut quid de te fieri deberet agnoscerem. Haec mihi cum dixisset, multum detestatus sum reverti ad corpus, delectatus nimirum suavitate ac decore loci illius quem intuebar, simul et consortio eorum quos in illo [Al. add. esse] videbam. Nec tamen aliquid ductorem meum rogare audebam: sed inter haec nescio quo ordine repente me inter homines vivere cerno.»

Now these and other things which this man of God had seen, he would not relate to slothful men, and such as lived negligently; but only to those who, being terrified with the dread of torments, or ravished with the hope of everlasting joys, would draw from his words the means to advance in piety. In the neighbourhood of his cell lived one Haemgils, a monk, and eminent in the priesthood, whose good works were worthy of his office: he is still living, and leading a solitary life in Ireland, supporting his declining age with coarse bread and cold water. He often went to that man, and by repeated questioning, heard of him what manner of things he had seen when out of the body; by whose account those few particulars which we have briefly set down came also to our knowledge. And he related his visions to king Aldfrid, a man most learned in all respects, and was by him so willingly and attentively heard, that at his request he was admitted into the monastery above-mentioned, and received the crown of the monastic tonsure; and the said king, whensoever he came into those parts, very often went to hear him. At that time the abbot and priest Ethelwald, a man of godly and sober life, presided over that monastery. He now occupies the episcopal see of the church of Lindisfarne, leading a life worthy of his degree.

Haec et alia quae viderat idem vir Domini, non omnibus passim desidiosis ac vitae suae incuriosis referre volebat, sed illis solummodo qui, vel tormentorum metu perterriti, vel spe gaudiorum perennium delectati, profectum pietatis ex ejus verbis [0251B] haurire volebant. Denique in vicinia cellae illius habitabat quidam monachus, nomine Haemgils, presbyteratus etiam quem bonis actibus adaequabat [Al., operibus adornabat], gradu praeeminens, qui adhuc superest, et in Hibernia insula solitarius ultimam vitae aetatem pane cibario et frigida aqua sustentat. Hic saepius ad eumdem virum ingrediens, audivit ab eo repetita interrogatione, quae et qualia essent quae exutus corpore videret [Al., viderat]: per cujus relationem, ad nostram quoque agnitionem pervenere quae de his pauca perstrinximus. Narrabat autem visiones suas etiam regi Aldfrido viro undecumque doctissimo; et tam libenter, tamque studiose ab illo auditus est, ut ejus rogatu [Al. add. in] monasterio [0251C] supra memorato inditus, ac monachica sit tonsura coronatus, atque ad eum audiendum saepissime cum illas in partes devenisset accederet. Cui videlicet monasterio tempore illo religiosae ac modestae vitae abbas et presbyter [a 1Kb] Aediluald praeerat, qui nunc episcopalem Lindisfarnensis Ecclesiae cathedram condignis gradu actibus servat [Al., tenet].

He had a place of abode assigned him apart in that monastery, where he might give himself more freely to the service of his Creator in continual prayer. And inasmuch as that place was on the banks of the river, he was wont often to go into the same for the great desire he had to do penance in his body, and oftentimes to plunge in it, and to continue saying psalms or prayers in the same as long as he could endure it, standing still, while the waves flowed over him, sometimes up to the middle, and sometimes even to the neck in water; and when he went ashore, he never took off his cold, wet garments till they grew warm and dry on his body. And when in the winter the cracking pieces of ice were floating about him, which he had himself sometimes broken, to make room to stand or plunge in the river, and those who beheld it would say, “We marvel, brother Drythelm (for so he was called), that you are able to endure such severe cold;” he answered simply, for he was a simple and sober-spirited man, “I have seen greater cold.” And when they said, “We marvel that you choose to observe so hard a rule of continence,” he replied, “I have seen harder things.” And so, until the day of his calling hence, in his unwearied desire of heavenly bliss, he subdued his aged body with daily fasting, and forwarded the salvation of many by his words and life.

Accepit autem in eodem monasterio locum mansionis secretiorem, ubi liberius continuis in orationibus famulatui sui Conditoris vacaret. Et quia locus ipse super ripam fluminis erat situs, solebat hunc creber [Al., crebro] ob magnum castigandi corporis affectum ingredi, ac saepius in eo supermeantibus undis immergi; sicque ibidem quamdiu sustinere posse videbatur, psalmis vel precibus insistere, [0252A] fixusque manere ascendente aqua fluminis [Al. add. et] usque ad lumbos, aliquando usque ad collum; atque inde egrediens ad terram nunquam ipsa vestimenta uda atque [Al., vel] algida deponere curabat, donec ex suo corpore calefierent et siccarentur. Cumque tempore hiemali defluentibus circa eum semifractarum crustis glacierum, quas et ipse aliquando contriverat quo haberet locum standi sive immergendi [Al. add. se] in fluvio, dicerent [Al., dicerentque] qui videbant: «Mirum, frater Drycthelme (hoc enim erat viro nomen), quod tantam frigoris asperitatem ulla ratione tolerare praevales!» Respondebat ille simpliciter, erat namque homo simplicis ingenii ac moderatae naturae: «Frigidiora ego vidi.» Et cum dicerent: «Mirum quod tam [0252B] austeram tenere continentiam velis!» Respondebat: «Austeriora ego vidi.» Sicque usque ad diem suae vocationis infatigabili caelestium bonorum desiderio corpus senile inter quotidiana jejunia domabat, multisque et verbo et conversatione saluti [Al., salutis causa] fuit.




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