Hymn to the Virgin, by Gottfried von Strassburg

Blessed Virgin MaryYe, who your life would glorify
And float in bliss with God on high,
There to dwell nigh
His peace and love’s salvation;
Who fain would learn how to enroll
All evils under your control,
And rid your soul
Of many a sore temptation:
Give heed unto this song of love
And follow its sweet story;
Then will its passing sweetness prove
Unto your hearts a peaceful dove,
And upward move
Your souls to realms of glory.

Ye, who would hear what you have ne’er
Heard spoken, now incline your ear
And listen here
To what my tongue unfoldeth.
Yea, list to the sweet praise and worth
Of her who to God’s child gave birth;
Wherefore on earth
God as in heaven her holdeth.
E’en as the air when fresh bedewed
Bears fruitful growth, so to man
She bears an ever-fruitful mood:
Never so chaste and sweet heart’s blood,
So true and good,
Was born by mortal woman.

I speak of thee in my best strain:
No mother e’er such child may gain,
Or child attain
So pure a mother ever.
He chose what his own nature was;
His glorious Godhead chose as case
The purest vase
Of flesh and bone’s endeavor
That woman ever to her heart
‘Tween earth and heaven gave pressure.
In thee lay hidden every part,
That ever did from virtue start;
Of bliss thou art
The sweetest, chosen treasure.

Thou gem, thou gold, thou diamond-glow,
Thou creamy milk, white ivory, oh!
Thou honey-flow
In heart and mouth dissolving;
Of fruitful virtue a noble grove,
The lovely bride of God above –
Thou sweet, sweet love,
Thou hour with bliss revolving!
Of chastity thou whitest snow,
A grape of chaste and sure love,
A clover-field of true love’s glow,
Of grace a bottomless ocean’s flow:
Yea more, I trow:
A turtle-dove of pure love.

God thee hath clothed with raiments seven,
On thy pure body, brought from heaven,
Hath put them even
When thou wast first created.
The first dress Chastity is named,
The second is as Virtue famed,
The third is claimed
And as sweet Courtesy rated.
The fourth dress is Humility,
The fifth is Mercy’s beauty,
The sixth one, Faith, clings close to thee,
The seventh, humble Modesty,
Keepeth thee free
To follow simple duty.

To worship, Lady, thee doth teach
Pray’r to drenched courage and numbed speech,
Yea, and fires each
Cold heart with heavenly rapture.
To worship thee, O Lady! can
Teach many an erring, sinful man,
How from sin’s ban
His soul he still may capture.
To worship thee is e’en a branch
On which the soul’s life bloometh;
To worship thee makes bold and stanch
The weakest soul on sin’s hard bench;
God it doth wrench
From hell and in heaven roometh.

Then let both men and women proclaim,
And what of mother’s womb e’er came,
Both wild and tame,
The grace of thy devotion.
Then praise thee now what living lives,
Whatever heaven’s dew receives,
Runs, floats, or cleaves
Through forest or through ocean.
Then praise thee now the fair star-shine,
The sun and the moon gold-glowing,
Then praise thee the four elements thine;
Yea, blessedness around thee twine,
Thou cheering wine,
Thou stream with grace o’erflowing.

Rejoice, then, Lady of the skies,
Rejoice, thou God-love’s paradise,
Rejoice, thou prize
Of sweetest roses growing!
Rejoice, thou blessed maiden, then,
Rejoice, that every race and clan,
Woman and man,
Pray to thy love o’erflowing.
Rejoice, that thou with God dost show
So many things in common:
His yea thy yea, his no thy no;
Endless ye mingle in one flow;
Small and great, lo!
He shares with thee, sweet woman.

Now have I praised the mother thine,
O sweet, fair Christ and Lord of mine!
That honor’s shrine
Wherein thou wast created.
And loud I’ll now praise thee, O Lord!
Yea, did I not, ‘twould check my word;
Thy praise has soared,
And with all things been mated.
Seven hours each day thy praise shall now
By me in pray’r be chanted;
This well belongs to thee, I trow,
For with all virtues thou dost glow;
From all grief thou
Relief to us hast granted.

Thou of so many pure hearts the hold,
So many a pure maid’s sweetheart bold,
All thee enfold
With love bright, loud, and yearning.
Thou art caressed by many a mood,
Caressed by many a heart’s warm blood;
Thou art so good,
So truthful and love-burning.
Caressed by all the stars that soar,
By moon and sun, thou blessing!
Caressed by the great elements four;
Oh! ne’er caressed so was afore,
Nor will be more,
Sweetheart by love’s caressing!

Yea, thou art named the God of grace,
Without whose special power, no phase
Of life in space
Had ever gained existence.
What runneth, climbeth, sneaketh, or striveth,
What crawleth, twineth, flieth, or diveth,
Yea, all that thriveth
In earth and heaven’s subsistence:
Of all, the life to thee is known,
Thou art their food and banner,
The lives of all are held alone
By thee, O Lord! and on thy throne;
Thus is well known
Thy grace in every manner.

God of thee speaking, God of thee saying,
Teareth the heart its passions flaying,
And stay waylaying
The ever-watchful devil.
God of thee speaking, God of thee saying,
Much strength and comfort keeps displaying;
And hearts thus staying,
Are saved from every evil.
God of thee speaking, God of thee saying,
Is pleasure beyond all pleasure.
It moves our hearts, thy grace surveying,
To keep with love thy love repaying;
O’er all things swaying
Thus shines thy love’s great treasure.

God of thee speaking repentance raises
When they, who chant thy wondrous praises,
Use lying phrases:
So purely thy word gloweth.
It suffers less a lying mood
Than suffers waves the ocean’s flood,
So pure and good
Its changeless current floweth.
God of thee speaking doth attest
Pure heart and chaste endeavor,
It driveth the devil from our breast.
Oh! well I know its soothing rest,
It is the zest
Of thy vast mercy’s flavor.

Ah virtue pure, ah purest vase!
Ah of chaste eyes thou mirror-glass!
Ah diamond-case,
With fruitful virtues glowing!
Ah festive day to pleasure lent!
Ah rapture without discontent!
Ah sweet musk-scent!
Ah flower gayly blooming!
Ah heavenly kingdom where thou art!
On earth, in hell, or heaven!
Ah cunning o’er all cunning’s art!
Ah thou, that knoweth every part!
Ah sweet Christ’s heart!
Ah sweetness without leaven!

Ah virtue there, ah virtue here!
Ah virtue on many a dark and drear
Path, far and near!
Ah virtue e’er befriending!
Ah thou self-conscious purity!
Ah goodness, those that cling to thee
So many be
Their number has no ending.
Ah father, mother thou, and son!
Ah brother both and sister!
Ah strong of faith as Jacob’s son!
Ah king of earth’s and heaven’s throne!
Ah thou alone
Our friend to-day as yester!