Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hail St. Boniface, Apostle to Germany and writer of riddles

 St. Boniface baptizing (top)
St. Boniface being martyred (bottom)
From a Fulda Sacramentary

Today is the feast of St. Boniface (martyred 754 AD), learned monk, reformer of the Frankish church, Apostle to Germany and Holland, and writer of riddles.  Originally named Wynfrith or Winfred (he either took the name Boniface at his religious profession or received it from Pope Gregory II), from a noble family in the southeast of England, Wynfrith was educated by monks and showed great ability as a student.  His parents, and especially his father, desired that Wynfrith would pursue a secular career, but Wynfrith felt called to the religious life.  Eventually, Wynfrith's father gave his permission, and Wynfrith entered a Benedictine monastery on the site of the present city of Exeter.

Boniface became famous for his sanctity and learning, and many opportunities for advancement were open to him.  However, Boniface, a Saxon, desired more than anything else to bring the Gospel to his distant kinmen, the Old Saxons, a pagan people who lived beyond the Rhine in Germany.  His abbot approved this project, and so Boniface left England for Germany, never to return.  Boniface achieved great success in Germany, baptizing many and establishing many dioceses and monasteries which still exist today.   Boniface also reformed the Frankish church, which in many places had returned to paganism.  Boniface also anointed and crowned Pepin as king of the Franks, and thus was instrumental in establishing the Carolingian dynasty, which would provide a religious, cultural and governmental framework for much of Europe for many centuries.

Having accomplished many of his original goals, as a very old man Boniface undertook to convert the Frisians, who lived in what is today Holland.  When Boniface and his 52 companions were set upon by a band of war-like Frisians, Boniface counseled his companions to lay down their arms, saying "we are told in Scripture not to render evil for good but to overcome evil by good."   Perhaps not surprisingly, the Frisians thereupon killed Boniface and his companions.  When the Frisians broke open the great wooden chests Boniface and his companions brought with them, they were disappointed to find not treasure but books.   One of these books is still kept at a monastery founded by Boniface in Fulda; it bears incisions from a sword or ax.

When Boniface was a young monk in England he wrote several books, including a book of riddles, called "Enigmata" in Latin.   Many of these are not riddles as we understand the term.   Here is Boniface's enigmata "Misericordia Ait" (Mercy Said) in the original Latin.   The poem is an acrostic, its title can be read in the first letter of each line along the left hand margin. 

Misericordia ait.

Moribus en geminae variis et jure sorores
Instamus domini cunctis in callibus una.
Sed soror in tenebras mortales mergeret atras,
Et poenas Erebi lustrent per devia Ditis.
Regmina si seculi tenuisset sola per orbem,
Illius adversas vires infrangere nitor,
Clamans atque, "soror," dicens "carissima, parce."
O genus est superum felix me virgine nancta,
Regmine nempe meo perdono piacula terris,
Do vitae tempus superis, do lumen Olympi,
Ingentem mundi variis cum floribus arum,
Aurea gens hominum scandat quod culmine coeli.
Ast tame Altithroni non sacris sinibus absum,
Impetrans miseris veniam mortalibus aevi,
Trahendo jugiter Christi per saecla ministra

My Latin is rusty, so I put this into Google translate, which provided the following fractured gibberish:
Mercy said.

Customs en twin sisters with different and right
Instant LORD do to all the trails should have a portion.
But the sister of men plunged into the darkness of the black,
The punishments of hell makes the detours Dis.
Government only if the world had held throughout the world,
The conflicting forces infrangere fading,
, And crying out, "sister", saying "you hold most precious, spare."
O species, is invested with a virgin, lucky me that leads on high,
Government that is my pardons to appease countries
Moreover I have given moment of his life the gods above, I give the light of Olympus,
The volume of the world with a variety of the flowers of this addition,
The golden race of men by little climax in the air.
But grateful, however, did not draw near the sacred,
Obtain permission human life miserable,
Drawing the time of Christ through the ages minister

Which shows that Google translate's Latin is pretty rusty also.

No comments:

Post a Comment