Ordo Virtutum Text Translation

ordo virtutum text

This English text and translation of the play Ordo Virtutum by Hildegard of Bingen is based on a translation by Peter Dronke.

Characters:

Anima (Soul)

Devil

Virtues: Humility (Queen of all Virtues), Knowledge-of-God, Charity, Fear-of-God, Obedience, Faith, Hope, Chastity, Innocence, Contempt-for-the-World, Heavenly Love, Discipline, Modesty, Mercy, Victory, Discretion (Discretio), Patience

Patriarchs and Prophets:

Who are these who seem like clouds?

Virtues: 

O ancient holy ones, why do you marvel at us? The Word of God grows bright in the form of a man, and thus we shine with him, building the limbs of his beautiful body.

Patriarchs and Prophets:

We are roots, and you are branches, the fruit of the living eye, of which we were the shadow.

Lament of embodied Souls:

We are strangers here! What have we done, straying to realms of sin? We should have been daughters of the King, but we have fallen into the shadow of sins.  Living Sun, carry us on your shoulders back to that most just inheritance we lost in Adam! O king of kings, we are fighting in your battle.

Soul, joyful:

Oh sweet divinity, o gentle life, in which I shall wear a bright robe, accepting that which I lost in my first formation – I cry to you and invoke all of the virtues.

Virtues:

Oh happy Soul, or sweet creature of God fashioned in the great height of the wisdom of God, you show much love.

Soul, joyful:

Oh let me come to you freely, that you may give me the kiss of your heart.

Virtues:

We must fight with you, or royal daughter.

Soul turns to sadness

Oh heavy toil, oh harsh weight that I bear in the dress of this life; it is too heavy for me to fight against my body.

Virtues to Soul

Anima, you that were given your place by the will of God, you instrument of bliss, why are you so tearful in the face of the evil god crushed in a maidenly being? You must overcome the devil in our midst.

Soul:

Support me, help me to stand firm!

Knowledge-of-God to Soul:

See the dress you are wearing, daughter of salvation: be steadfast and you will never fall.

Soul, sadly:

I don’t know what to do or where to flee.  Woe is me, I cannot perfect this dress I have put on!  Indeed I want to cast it off!

Virtues:

Unhappy state of mind, oh poor Anima, why do you hide your face in the presence of your Creator?

Knowledge-of-God:

You do not know or see or taste the One who has set you here.

Soul:

God created the world; I’m doing him no injury, I only want to enjoy it!

Devil shouting at the Soul:

What use to you is toiling foolishly? Look to the world; it will embrace you with great honor.

Virtues:

Is this not a plangent voice of the greatest sorrow? Ah, a certain marvelous victory already rose in that Soul, in her wondrous longing for God, in which a sensual delight was secretly hidden, alas, where previously the will had known no guilt and the desire fled man’s wantonness.  Mourn for this, mourn Innocence, you who lost no perfection in your fair modesty, who did not devour greedily, with the belly of the serpent of old.

Devil:

What is the Power – as if there were no one but God? I say, whoever wants to follow me, and no my will, I’ll give him everything.  As for you, Humility, you have nothing that you can give your followers; none of you even know what you are!

Humility:

My comrades and I know very well that you are the ancient dragon who wanted to fly higher than the highest one; but God himself hurled you into the abyss.

Virtues:

As for us, we dwell I the heights.

Humility:

I, Humility, queen of the Virtues, say: come to me, you Virtues, and I’ll give you the skill to seek and find the drachma that is lost and to crown her who perseveres blissfully.

Virtues:

Oh glorious queen, most gentle mediator, we come gladly.

Humility:

Because of this, beloved daughters, I’ll keep your place in the royal wedding-chamber.

Charity:

I am Charity, the flower of love – come to me, Virtues, and I’ll lead you into the radiant light of the flower of the rod.

Virtues:

Dearest flower, we run to you with burning desire.

Fear-of-God:

I Fear-of-God, can prepare blissful daughters to gaze upon the living God and not die of it.

Virtues:

Oh Fear, you can help us greatly; we are filled with the longing never to part from you.

Devil:

Bravo! Bravo! What is this great fear, and this great love? Where is the champion? Where the prize-giver? You don’t know what you are worshipping!

Virtues:

But you, you were terrified at the Supreme Judge, for, swollen with price, you were plunged into Gehenna.

Obedience:

I am shining Obedience – come to me, lovely daughters, and I’ll lead you to your homeland and to the kiss of the King.

Virtues:

Sweetest summoner, it is right for us to come, most eagerly, to you.

Faith:

I am Faith, the mirror of life; worthy daughters, come to me and I shall show you the leaping fountain.

Virtues:

Oh Serene one, mirror-like, we trust in you; we shall arrive at the fountain through you.

Hope:

I am the sweet beholder of the living eye, I whom no dissembling torpor can deceive.  Darkness, you cannot cloud my gaze.

Virtues:

Living life, gentle consoling one, you overcome the deadly shafts of death and with your seeing eye lay heaven’s gate open.

Chastity:

O Virginity, you remain without the royal chamber.  How sweetly you burn in the King’s embraces, when the Sun blazes though you, never letting your noble flower fall.  Gentle maiden, you will never know the shadow over the falling flower!

Virtues:

The flower of the fields fails in the wind, the rain splashes it.  But you, Virginity, remain in the symphonies of heavenly habitants; you are the tender flower that will never grow dry.

Innocence:

My flock, flee from the Devil’s taints!

Virtues:

We shall flee them, if you give us aid.

Contempt-for-the-World:

I, Contempt-for-the-World, am the heat life.  Oh wretched, exiled state on earth, with all your toils – I let you go.  Come to me, you Virtues, and we will climb up to the fountain of life!

Virtues:

Glorious lady, you that always fight the battles of Christ, oh great power that treads the world under your feet, you thereby dwell in heaven, victoriously!

Heavenly Love:

I am the golden gate fixed in heaven; whoever passes through me will never taste bitter rebelliousness in her mind.

Virtues:

Royal daughter, you are held fast in the embraces the world shuns; how tender is your love in the highest God!

Discipline:

I am the one who loves innocent ways that know nothing ignoble; I always gaze upon the King of kings and, as my highest honor, I embrace him.

Virtues:

Angelic comrade, how comely you are in the royal nuptials!

Modesty:

I cover over, drive away or tread down all the filths of the Devil.

Virtues:

Yours is a part in the building of heavenly Jerusalem, flowering among shining lilies.

Mercy:

How bitter in human minds is the harshness that does not soften and mercifully ease pain! I want to reach out my hand to all who suffer.

Virtues:

Matchless mother of exiles, you are always raising them up and anointing the poor and the weak.

Victory:

I am Victory, the swift, brave champions I fight with a stone. I tread the ancient serpent down.

Virtues:

Or gentlest warrior, in the scorching fountain that swallowed up the voracious wolf-glorious, crowned-one, how gladly we’ll fight against that deceiver, at your side!

Discretion:

I am discretion (internal link Discretio), light and moderator of all creatures – the impartiality of God, that Adam drove away by acting wantonly.

Virtues:

Fairest mother, how sweet you are, how gentle – in you no one can be confounded.

Patience:

I am the pillar that can never be made to yield, as my foundation is in God.

Virtues:

You that stay firm in the rocky cavern, you are the glorious warrior who endures all.

Humility:

Daughters of Israel, God raised you from beneath the tree, so now remember how it was planted.  Therefore rejoice, daughters of Jerusalem.

Virtues:

Alas, alas, let us lament and mourn, because our master’s sheep has fled from life!

Soul, lamenting, penitent and calling to the Virtues:

You, royal Virtues, how graceful, how brilliant you look in the highest Sun, and how delectable is your home, and so, what woe is mine that I fled from you!

Virtues:

You who escaped, come to us, and God will take you back.

Soul:

Ah, but a burning sweetness swallowed me up in sins, so I did not dare come in.

Virtues:

Don’t be afraid or run away; the good Shepherd is searching for his lost sheep – it is you.

Soul:

Now I need your help to gather me up – I stink of the wounds that the ancient serpent has made gangrenous.

Virtues:

Run to us, follow those steps where you’ll never falter, in our company; God will heal you.

Soul, penitent to the Virtues:

I am the sinner who fled from life; covered in sores, I come to you — you can offer me redemption’s shield.  All of you, warriors of Queen Humility, her white lilies and her crimson roses, stoop to me, who exiled myself from you like a stranger, and help me, that in the blood of the Son of God I may arise.

Virtues:

Fugitive Soul, now be strong; put on the armor of light.

Soul:

And you, true medicine, Humility, grant me your help, for pride has broken me in many vices, inflicting many scars on me.  Now, I’m escaping to you – so take me up!

Humility:

All you Virtues, lift up this mournful sinner, with all her scars, for the sake of Christ’s wounds, and bring her to me.

Virtues:

We want to bring you back – we shall not desert you, the whole host of heaven will rejoice in you; thus it is right for us to sound our music.

Humility:

Oh unhappy daughter, I want to embrace you; the great surgeon has suffered harsh and bitter wounds for your sake.

Virtues:

Living fountains, how great is your sweetness; you did not reject the gaze of these upon you – no, acutely you foresaw how you could avert them from the fall the angels fell, they who thought they possessed a power which no law allows to be like that.  Rejoice then, daughter Jerusalem, for God is giving you back many whom the serpent wanted to sunder from you, who now gleam in a greater brightness than would have been their state before.

Devil:

Who are you? Where are you coming from? You were in my embrace, I led you out.  Yet now you are going back, defying me – but I shall fight you and bring you down!

Soul, penitent:

I recognized that all my ways were wicked, so I fled you. But now, you deceiver, I will fight you face-to-face.  Queen Humility, come with your medicine, and give me aid!

Humility:

Victory, you who once conquered this creature in the heavens, run now, with all your soldiery, and all of you bind this fiend!

Victory:

Bravest and most glorious warriors, come, help me to vanquish this deceitful one!

Virtues:

Oh sweetest warrior, in the scorching fountain that swallowed up the voracious wolf glorious, crowned one, how gladly we’ll fight against that deceiver, at your side!

Humility:

Bind him then, you shining Virtues!

Virtues:

Queen of us all, we obey you – we shall carry out your orders to the full.

Victory:

Comrades, rejoice; the ancient serpent snake is bound!

Virtues:

Praise be to you, Christ, King of the angels!

Chastity:

In the mind of the Highest, Satan, I trod on your head, and in a virgin form, I nurtured a sweet miracle when the Son of God came into the world; therefore you are laid low, with all your blunder, and now let all who dwell in heaven rejoice, because your belly has been confounded.

Devil:

You don’t know what you are nurturing, for your belly is devoid of the beautiful form that woman receives from man; in this you transgress the command that God enjoined in the sweet act of love; so you don’t even know what you are!

Chastity:

How can what you say affect me?  Even your suggestion smirches it with foulness.  I did bring forth man, who gathers up mankind to himself, against you, through his nativity.

Virtues:

Who are you, God, who held such great counsel in yourself, a counsel that destroyed the draught of hell in publicans and sinners who know shine in paradisal goodness!  Praise to you, King for this! Almighty Father, from you flowed a fountain fiery love; guide your children into a fair wind, sailing the waters, so that we too may steer them in this way into the heavenly Jerusalem.

In the beginning all creation was verdant, flowers blossomed in the midst of it; later, greenness / Viriditas (internal link) sank away.  And, the champion saw this and said:

“I know it, but the golden number is not yet full.  You then, behold me, mirror of your fatherhood; in my body I am suffering exhaustion, even my little ones faint.  Now, remember that the fullness which was made in the beginning need not have grown dry, and that then you resolved that your eye would never fall until you saw my body full of jewels.  For it wearies me that all my limbs are exposed to mockery; Father, behold, I am showing you my wounds.”

So now, all you people, bend your knees o the Father, that he may reach you his hand.