Volume > Issue > Processional (upon seeing Dürer’s woodcut of Roswitha)

Processional (upon seeing Dürer’s woodcut of Roswitha)


By David W. Landrum | June 1985

By Dürer’s hand, I saw her kneeling down

Before the Emperor: Roswitha — she

Who from the Saxon convent plied her pen

Against the pagan Terence and to praise

Saint Agnes and to tell Thais’ woe.

Nine-hundred years away, the forests cold

Rose up about her cloister. Noble maids,

Daughters of chiefs and kings, left gold and claims

To titles, wealth and tribal lands and went

To sit at common table, simple food

Their fare, and fast and vigil. Icy streams

Could not flow clearer or more chaste. This one

Beneath the veil knew the austerity

So solemn and so awful, when the choice

Was not seen in degrees but asked for all:

Body and soul and will — such was the age.

And such the calling. Face as sure as flint

Set to Jerusalem, she shared the life

Of virgin sisters, selfsame in their minds,

Discarding worldliness, unmastered, free.

Her poetry and plays stood on my lips.

And in a vision earth for me became

Uncyclical, its battered vanity

Pale by the long procession of the saints,

Church militant, in triumph, piercing night.

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