Monday, October 4, 2021

Jacopone da Todi

Jacopone da Todi (ca. 1230―1306) is an Italian poet and Franciscan friar. The existence of hundreds of manuscripts of his Laud, point to the popularity of these poems. They were written in his Umbrian dialect of Italian. Along with many beautiful poems of rich faith, there are some expressing more extreme views, including glorifying the notion of madness for the sake of Christ. It is commonly thought that Jacopone also wrote the celebrated Latin poem “Stabat Mater Dolorosa,” although this is still in question.

He wrote many satirical poems, critical of corruption within the Catholic Church. He believed in the necessity of ascetic poverty for priests, and was critical of Pope Boniface VIII, whom he did not consider to be the legitimate pope. He was excommunicated and jailed, although later released and reinstated during his seventies by Pope Benedict XI.

Irish poet Pádraig J. Daly has just sent me a copy of the very enjoyable book, The God-Madness (2008, Dedalus Press), his translations from the Italian of several of Jacopone da Todi’s particularly devotional laud. The following poem is from this book.

Laud 82: The Siege of Love

Why have you laid siege to me?
You have fallen for me madly and cannot let me go.

From five directions you besiege me:
Through sight and hearing, taste and touch and smell.
If I emerge, I am caught: I cannot hide from you.

If I go out through my eyes, all I see is Love,
Depicted in every form, in every colour,
Reminding me over that I must live still with you.

If I go through the gate of hearing,
What does sound tell me? Sir, only of you.
I cannot exit here, for all I hear is bitter.

I cannot go through taste, since what I savour proclaims you:
Love, Love Divine! Love, Hungering Love,
You have hooked me that you might rule me!

If I go through the gate of smell,
Every creature has scent of you.
return wounded, tangled in every odour.

If I go through the gate they call touch,
I trace you in every creature;
It is madness, Love, to try to escape you.

Love, I try to flee,
Not willing to yield my heart:
But I have lost, and cannot find, myself.

If I see evil in anyone, fault or weakness,
You transform me into them and make my heart heavy.
Love I immeasurable, who is it you choose for loving?

Take me, Dead Christ; haul me from sea to sand,
Where I may grieve to see you so full of wounds,
And why it is you have been wounded? Only that I be healed.

Posted with permission of the translator.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock.