Seasonal Imagery in Hadewijch of Brabant’s "Poems in Stanzas" S.E.S.

Eberly In the love lyric of the Middle Ages, the pastoral setting is a frequent component, and Hadewijch, who may have been an early Beguine, uses this type of setting, with varying degrees of detail, in the opening stanzas of thirty-nine out of forty-five of her "Poems in Stanzas." The common denominator of these openings is the mention of the seasons, either specifically by name -spring, summer, winter -- or by attribute, particularly by the term new year. In looking at the cumulative imagery that evolves out of her repeated use of seasonal metaphors, we can see that she develops a specific symbolic "language." An understanding of this language can give us insight into her other writings, and into how she conceptualized loving God. Her mention of seasons also falls into a pattern, a pattern that further reinforces the idea that there was a ...prearranged significance in the order Hadewijch assigned to the various poems...[a significance that] was discovered by J. Bosch. He succeeded in demonstrating that she structured this entire book according to the principles of medieval numerology...(Hart l920). Each ninth poem -- that is, poems nine, eighteen, twenty-seven, thirty-six, and forty-five -- are particularly crucial to understanding her message. While each of the other poems opens with a stanza that clearly states a season, and the relationship of that season's spiritual metaphor to the poet's condition, the metaphorical content of the "multiples of nine" poems is much more complex. In addition, each of the "multiples of nine" poems contain imagery that cannot be easily related to a single season, while the other poems have either "spring-summer" or "fall-winter imagery" in the opening stanzas. Because nine is the product of three times three -- the number of the Trinity -- this makes particular sense when we consider that Hadewijch was building this collection of poems on a system derived from numerology. To cite each of the forty-five poems is beyond the scope of this paper, but I will try to provide adequate support for my ideas through specific line citations as needed. My primary interest is in the particular values she assigns each of the seasons. Fall-Winter imagery is predominates in the opening stanzas of approximately one-third of the poems in this collection (poems l-5, 10, 26-27, 35, 39, and 42-44). That is to say, winter images fill the opening poems and the poems that conclude this collection. For Hadewijch, winter is marked by "cold winter,/with short days and long nights" (poem l); it is a time a time of waiting for spring, a "sad," "drear" season (poems 5, 26, 35, 42). Winter has power over creatures; it "oppresses," (poem 3), "molests" (poem 4), and "torments" (16) them, it is a time of both danger and hunger (poem 39). Again and again, the images of birdsong appear, but not in the verses dealing with winter, for this is a time of silence, when no bird song breaks the hush (poems 3, l0): "Long hushed are the birds/ That sang so joyously before:/Their joy is ended/Simply because they have lost summer" (lines l-4 ). In poem number 6, a more developed winter metaphor is presented: He who endures love with doubt Is a branch blighted by the frost, So that he cannot grow As it pleases Love; therefore he feels The burden of noble Love: There is no foliage springing up from him: Moreover he cannot bear flowers and fruit When the sun is absent -That sun is veritable Love, who calls forth Flowers and fruit from the mind. Poem 6, lines 24-34

in this case Hadewijch. So it is for the noble hearts. mortal life.for spring is the time of love. fruits are borne. Hadewijch develops themes of singing birds (even the nightingale). As with the secular Minnesänger. feels all the cold of abandonment. the continuing delight and despair of her seeking after God. is reiterated in Hadewijch's verse. When the fruits of the year Are harvested under our gaze. in the stanzas referring to spring. flowers bloom. birdsong fills the long. For example." When she talks of this as the beginning of the "new year" -. Summer. in another image repeated in these poems. and the Lover.. when you force me to go out hunting for you. the days are short and the nights long. and her imagery of the wound of Love also falls into context: A new springtime and the ever new Love Strike together one single wound. "Why./Do you flee so far ahead of me?" But in summer there is an expected harvest. of course. Poem l8. there are repeated mentions of mountains and valleys. for she laments in lines 512. sunlit days. in poem 29 -. lines 15-21 This theme of "renewed newness. these should! Within these metaphors of the seasons. the constant surprise.we have to remind ourselves that she is speaking in terms of the liturgical year." paradoxical as it sounds. and the resurrection. My newly re-experiencing this Has wounded my heart anew: That this noble being Remains hidden from us In her subtle nature such a long in the Beloved image that occurs in the opening stanzas of seven of these poems -.. Then we understand how she can link spring and eternity in poem 31: "That springtime of eternity I continually long for/Keeps in store for me the reward" (lines 31-2). the opposite of winter: Now is born the noble season That will bring us flowers in the land. her day is made night. Everyone has reason for joy. "bold" summer” (poem 1) is. of Easter. Hadewijch writes. like "the poor. the valleys.Hadewijch writes: The father in the beginning Kept his Son.fails. which is to be expected in poems that are in the genre of love lyric -. is a time when "fidelity" -.Winter." must be satisfied with "the gleanings" (line 38). . number forty-four. The mountain appears to be the Heavenly City. The sun is gone. the passion. Opening imagery that focuses on either spring or summer is found in twenty-four of these forty-five poems. lines 1-5 In summer. Or. lines 1-4 This is not to say that Hadewijch herself is harvesting the fruits of Love. chosen To bear the yoke. Poem 44. then. Until Mary. Love. In one lovely verse. blossoming flowers. Hidden in his bosom." Poem 12. If ever a person's writings should have dispelled any suspicions of Quietism. however. Without either trouble or anxiety. we also find other familiar themes.the poem which Bosch believed was the axis around which all the other poems in this collection circle -.. the chains of Love: Fidelity ever blossoms in their hands With flowers and fruits of nobleness. In the last of the poems that are not "multiple of nine" poems. however much Hadewijch. and sheep that are "running about.

this concept takes on new meaning. to "reach fruition." Within her seasonal imagery. Poem 23. but fruition may be delayed. Poem l7. And we then could see Our journey toward you pressed to the end. in spite of all disasters Endure Love's storms with confidence.and the hazel. like the hazel. two plants appear. the opening stanza introduces again the idea of seasons./the season's public token" (lines 3-5). And that valley flowed aloft to the height of the palace. lines 91-96 The hazelnut is clearly associated with spring." Poem 21. the blossoming hazel announces the arrival of spring. O how with all that I was I greeted all that she is! But then she made me resemble the hazelnut trees That bloom early in the dark season. who "has commanded me to wander about in the climb to the highest summits" (poem 23). Hadejwich seems to experience a false spring. All would be well with us! He must march far who presses on to Love. and with two notions of fulfillment.. Then the mountain flowed down into the deep valley. Within the seasonal metaphors. And for whose fruit one must wait a long time. Then was the castle conquered Over which long combat had taken place. a moment of beauty that compels her to seek again for the renewal of newness. So shall he who loves. Free and assured He shall grow amid all that is harmful. When Love first spoke to me of love.. In poem 1. lines 15-19 Sometimes on this pilgrimage.. Hadewijch now waits to bear fruit -.. Although mountain and valley Are everywhere dark and colorless. As the beautiful rose Appears to us in the dew between the thorns. In poem 2. to use a phrase that constantly recurs in her writing.With deep humility indeed. In the final poem in this collection. In other words. lines 1-6. The hazel is already in bloom . "Bold summer speedily walks in… the hazel offers us fair blooms. But the hazel blossoms offer another message as well: When the season is renewed. Poem 29. but universalizes them: . we find the metaphor of the pilgrimage: Alas.or. her love blooms early.. the wanderer strays "in the wild desert" (poem 22). suffering at the order of Love. In a mysterious way disclosed him to us. but this search is not always immediately gratified. lines 41-50 Within two of the poems introduced by summer imagery. often. the rose – often a symbol for Mary -. if your mountains were valleys. 50-54 Brought to blossom by the sunlight of Love..

J. my heart's goal). lines 1-9 Spring. ever new and yet ever the same. trans. the Love of which Hadewijch writes -. Nothing exists anywhere in the world that can give me delight Except verus amor! O Love! In fidelity (since you are All my soul's joy. Hear the call of the heart! Poem 44.G. History. Pity distress. look upon struggle. Body in Culture. the seasons.No matter what the time of year.each is is ever-changing. Sources Hadewijch: The Complete Works. Milhaven (Suny Series. Columba Hart (Classics of Western Spirituality) Hadewijch and Her Sisters. & Religion) .