Joseph-Noël Sylvestre, Le Sac de Rome par les barbares en 410 (1890)

Finitis in Isaiam decem et octo Explanationum voluminibus, ad Ezechiel, quod tibi, et sanctae memoriae matri tuae Paulae, o Virgo Christi Eustochium, saepe pollicitus sum, transire cupiebam, et extremam, ut dicitur, manum operi imponere prophetali: et ecce subito mors mihi Pammachii atque Marcellae, Romanae urbis obsidio, multorumque fratrum et sororum dormitio nuntiata est. atque ita consternatus obstupui, ut nihil aliud diebus ac noctibus nisi de salute omnium cogitarem: meque in captivitate sanctorum putarem esse captivum, nec possem prius ora reserare, nisi aliquid certius discerem, dum inter spem et desperationem sollicitus pendeo, aliorumque malis me crucio. postquam vero clarissimum terrarum omnium lumen exstinctum est, immo Romani imperii truncatum caput, et, ut verius dicam, in una Urbe totus orbis interiit, “obmutui et humiliatus sum, et silui a bonis, et dolor meus renovatus est: concaluit cor meum intra me, et in meditatione mea exarsit ignis” [Ps. 38.4]; nec putavi illam sententiam negligendam: “musica in luctu importuna narratio” [Eccli. 22.6]. verum quia et tu indesinenter hoc flagitas, et magno vulneri cicatrix paulatim obducitur, Scorpiusque inter Enceladum et Porphyrionem Trinacriae humo premitur, et Hydra multorum capitum contra nos aliquando sibilare cessavit; datumque tempus, quo non haereticorum respondere insidiis, sed Scripturarum expositioni incumbere debeamus, aggrediar Ezechiel prophetam…
(Jerome, Comm. in Ezech. prooem. 1-2)

Having completed the eighteen books of the exposition of Isaiah, I was very desirous, Eustochium, Christ’s virgin, to go on to Ezekiel, in accordance with my frequent promises to you and your mother Paula, of saintly memory, and thus, as the saying is, put the finishing touches to the work on the prophets; but alas! intelligence was suddenly brought me of the death of Pammachius and Marcella, the siege of Rome, and the falling asleep of many of my brethren and sisters. I was so stupefied and dismayed that day and night I could think of nothing but the welfare of the community; it seemed as though I was sharing the captivity of the saints, and I could not open my lips until I knew something more definite; and all the while, full of anxiety, I was wavering between hope and despair, and was torturing myself with the misfortunes of other people. But when the bright light of all the world was put out, or, rather, when the Roman Empire was decapitated, and, to speak more correctly, the whole world perished in one city, “I became dumb and humbled myself, and kept silence from good words, but my grief broke out afresh, my heart glowed within me, and while I meditated the fire was kindled;” and I thought I ought not to disregard the saying, “An untimely story is like music in a time of grief.” But seeing that you persist in making this request, and a wound, though deep, heals by degrees; and the scorpion lies beneath the ground with Enceladus and Porphyrion, and the many-headed Hydra has at length ceased to hiss at us; and since opportunity has been given me which I ought to use, not for replying to insidious heretics, but for devoting myself to the exposition of Scripture, I will resume my work upon the prophet Ezekiel. (tr. William Henry Fremantle (?))

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