Ysengrimus erat frater, dudumque sepulti
sumere presbiteri poscitur ipse locum.
ille rogat, quod opus soleat patrare sacerdos?
pascere berbices anne parare dapes?
at typice fratres ovibus dixere tuendis
praefore presbiterum; paruit ille libens.
continuo “Dominus vobiscum!” dicere iussus,
Ysengrimus ovans “cominus,” inquit, “ovis!”
et “cúm!” teutonice accentu succlamat acuto,
nolens grammatica dicere voce “veni!”
(compererat crebro Scaldaeas ille bidentes
non nisi Teutonicos edidicisse modos;
quas ad concilium mandatas voce latina
convicit simili non bene nosse loqui,
duraque nullorsum iactans in vincula, donec
grammaticam scissent, pertulit ire reas.
claustricola hic ideoque pius, qua noverat illas
fungi, Teutonica voce venire iubet.)
dumque docent “Amén” quasi Graecum, accentuat “ágne.”
pars illum melius dicere nosse negant,
pars ultro dixisse ferunt; strepit undique murmur:
“verba, quid hic monachus cogitet, ante notant.
hic tondere gregem studet intra vellera; frater
tollere, quod lanam non sapit, iste parat!
dissimulat fraudem, non alterat, altera vestis;
non habet, ut spondet, nigra cuculla fidem.”
(Nivardus(?), Ysengrimus 5.541-566)

Ysengrimus, now a monk, was asked to take the place of a priest who had just been buried. He asked what task a priest customarily performed. Pasturing sheep or preparing food? The monks said, speaking figuratively, that the priest was in charge of looking after the sheep; so he willingly obeyed. Promptly instructed to say “Dominus vobiscum!” Ysengrimus cheerfully repeated “Lambus-here-come!” interpreting “cum” as the vernacular word, with a sharp accent, in preference to the Latin word “veni.” (He often found that the sheep of the Schelde had learned no speech but the vernacular; when he called them to a council in the Latin tongue, he had clear proof from them that they didn’t know how to speak in a similar way so he threw them into cruel bondage, and refused to allow the criminals to go anywhere before they had learned Latin. This was why this kind monk ordered them to come in the vernacular tongue he knew them to use.) When they taught him to say “Amén” in the Greek fashion, he stressed it “Lámb-en.” Some said that he was incapable of saying it any better, others that he had said it intentionally. On all sides buzzed the comment: “This monk’s words give prior warning of his intentions. He is plotting to shear the sheep of more than their fleece; this monk is preparing to take away something that doesn’t taste like wool! A new set of clothes disguises treachery, but it doesn’t change its nature. The black cowl doesn’t carry with it the trustworthiness it leads one to expect.” (tr. Jill Mann)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: