Saecula dampnavit rursum polluta creator,
pura tamen bonitas usa tenore suo est:
noxia non subito zizania messuit ense;
horribiles longum praefremuere minae.
praenorunt miseri, non excusare sinuntur.
indicium mundi machina trina dedit:
transsumpsere suas elementa ac tempora leges,
deseruitque prior non loca pauca situs.
aestive transivit hyemps, hyemaliter aestas;
intorsit tonitrus, fulminat udus Ilas.
Mulciber hibernus combussit templa domosque;
severunt hyemem Carchinus atque Leo.
instar parmarum cristallos Saxo iacentes
repperit in campis obstupuitque suis;
extimuit glaciem, qui tutus staret in enses,
concutiente novo fortia corda metu.
duruit in terram mare, terra liquatur in aequor;
piscibus accessit campus, harena satis.
evasit discrimen aquae pro navibus utens
nantibus in fluctu plurima turba casis.
prodigium refero, quod Fresia tota fatetur,
consolidatque agri sessor agerque fidem.
demolitus agrum cum possessore domoque
protulit externi pontus in arva viri,
publica litigium tandem censura diremit:
incola, cuius humum nemo videbat, abit,
quique superficiem fundi vellusque superne
vendicat, hic liber iudice plebe sedet.
(hoc in iudicio non sensit Fresia rectum:
qui dominus fundi, legitime esset agri.)
excussit templis ingentia tigna trabesque
et longinqua tulit ventus in arva furens.
fugit inextincta populus sua tecta favilla,
et repsit gemina vix ope tutus homo;
vix applosa solo tenuerunt corpora fortes,
horruit ingenti turbine terra tremens.
nocte sub hiberna Phoebi radiantior ore
cernitur arctoum flamma cremare polum.
noctibus innumeri bello concurrere soles,
sanguineus limphas horrificasse rubor.
bis latuit taeter Titan, causamque latendi
non soror aut nubes terreave umbra dabat.
omnia dixerunt clades elementa futuras,
nec tetigit tantus pectora dura pavor.
(Nivardus(?), Ysengrimus 7.615-658)

The creator has once again condemned the polluted times, and yet his unsullied goodness has held to its usual course; he has not cut down the harmful tares with a hastily wielded blade. Terrible warnings have for a long time been rumbling a prelude, and the wretches have had advance knowledge; they are not allowed an excuse. The threefold structure of the world has furnished a sign: the elements and the seasons have transposed their natural laws, and many features of the landscape have shifted their original position. Winter has become summery and summer wintry; the watery Hylas hurls down thunder and lightning. Vulcan has burned down houses and churches in winter; Cancer and Leo have produced cold. The Saxon has found hailstones the size of shields lying in his fields, and been terror-struck. The one who would have stood confidently in the face of swords is terrified by ice, and a new fear shakes brave hearts. The sea has solidified into land, the land is dissolved into sea; the field has given way to fish, and the beach to crops. Great numbers of people escaped the peril of the water by using houses, swimming in the flood, as boats. I’m recounting a marvel which all Friesland speaks of, and whose truthfulness is confirmed by both the land and its possessor. When the sea destroyed the land and carried its possessor and his home into the fields of another, a public judgment finally put an end to the dispute. The farmer whose land was no longer visible withdrew, and the one who claimed the building on the land, and its upper accouterments, remained in free possession, in the judgment of the people. (Friesland didn’t understand what’s right in this judgment; whoever is owner of the land, should legitimately be owner of its produce.) A furious wind tore down huge rafters and timbers from churches and swept them into distant fields. The people fled their homes with the fire still burning, and men tottered along, hardly preserved by having the strength of two; the strongest could hardly sustain their bodies, stricken to the earth, when the trembling earth shuddered with the mighty hurricane. In the winter’s night, a flame brighter than the face of the sun was seen scorching in the northern sky. At night, numberless suns clashed together in battle, and a bloodred color disfigured the waters. The hideous sun twice disappeared from view, without the moon or clouds or the earth’s shadow giving cause for his disappearance. All the elements proclaimed the destruction to come, and yet obdurate hearts were not touched by this great fear. (tr. Jill Mann)



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)