Ut vidit Agnes stare trucem virum
mucrone nudo, laetior haec ait:
“exsulto, talis quod potius venit
vesanus, atrox, turbidus, armiger,
quam si veniret languidus ac tener,
mollisque ephebus tinctus aromate,
qui me pudoris funere perderet.
hic, hic amator iam, fateor, placet:
ibo irruentis gressibus obviam,
nec demorabor vota calentia.
ferrum in papillas omne recepero,
pectusque ad imum vim gladii traham.
sic nupta Christo transiliam poli
omnes tenebras aethere celsior.
aeterne rector, divide ianuas
caeli, obseratas terrigenis prius,
ac te sequentem, Christe, animam voca,
cum virginalem, tum Patris hostiam.”
sic fata, Christum vertice cernuo
supplex adorat, vulnus ut imminens
cervix subiret prona paratius.
ast ille tantam spem peragit manu:
uno sub ictu nam caput amputat.
sensum doloris mors cita praevenit.
exutus inde spiritus emicat,
liberque in auras exilit; angeli
saepsere euntem tramite candido.
(Prudentius, Peristephanon 14.67-93)
When Agnes saw the grim figure standing there with his naked sword her gladness increased and she said: “I rejoice that there comes a man like this, a savage, cruel, wild man-at-arms, rather than a listless, soft, womanish youth bathed in perfume, coming to destroy me with the death of my honour. This lover, this one at last, I confess it, pleases me. I shall meet his eager steps halfway and not put off his hot desires. I shall welcome the whole length of his blade into my bosom, drawing the sword-blow to the depths of my breast; and so as Christ’s bride I shall o’erleap all the darkness of the sky and rise higher than the ether. O eternal ruler, open the gates of heaven which formerly were barred against the children of the earth, and call, O Christ, a soul that follows Thee, a virgin’s soul and a sacrifice to the Father.” So saying she bowed her head and humbly worshipped Christ, so that her bending neck should be readier to suffer the impending blow; and the executioner’s hand fulfilled her great hope, for at one stroke he cut off her head and swift death forestalled the sense of pain. Now the disembodied spirit springs forth and leaps in freedom into the air, and angels are round her as she passes along the shining path. (tr. Henry John Thomson)