Archive for September 16th, 2020

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

I Went into My Garden to Gather Herbs by Berta Jacobs (Sister Bertken)

I went into my garden to gather herbs,
But all I found were thistles and thorns.

The thistles and thorns I threw out,
I should like to grow some other plants.

Now I have found one to do the gardening,
One who is willing to shoulder the burden.

A tree had grown tall in very short time,
I could not pluck it out of the earth.

The gardener noted well the doleful tree:
He wrested it from the earth root and all.

Now I must be his servant,
Or he will not continue his care.

I must weed my garden for evermore
and yet I alone cannot maintain it.

I must sow seed of lilies in my garden;
This I must do early at dawn.

If he lets drop his gentle dew, my lover,
These seedlings shall grow and flower.

He loves to see the lilies, my lover,
If they grow straight and pure.

When red roses are planted in the same bed,
Then he touches the flowers with his gentle dew.

And when he illuminates them with golden rays,
Then I rejoice with all my heart.

Jesus is the name of my lover,
I want to serve him eternally and belong to him.

His love has given me such strong resolve,
That I hold the world in utter contempt.

From: Vynckier, Henk, “Poetry From Behind Bars: Some Translations from the Dutch Recluse Sister Bertken (1427-1514)” in Mystics Quarterly, September 1988, Vol. 14, No. 3 (September 1988), pp. 147-148.

Date: 15th century (original in Dutch); 1988 (translation in English)

By: Berta Jacobs (Sister Bertken) (1426/1427-1514)

Translated by: Henk Vynckier (19??- )