Plays of Roswitha (1923)/Sapientia



The martyrdom of the holy virgins Faith, Hope, and Charity, who are put to the torture by the Emperor Hadrian and slain in the presence of their mother Sapientia, she encouraging them by her admonitions to bear their sufferings. After their death the holy mother recovers the bodies of her children, embalms them with spices, and buries them with honour about five miles outside the city of Rome.

Forty days later the spirit of Sapientia takes its flight to heaven while she is still praying by her children's graves.





ANTIOCHUS. My Lord Emperor, what desire has your servant but to see you powerful and prosperous? What ambition apart from the welfare and peace and greatness of the state you rule? So when I discover anything that threatens the commonwealth or your peace of mind I try to crush it before it has taken root.

HADRIAN. In this you show discretion, Antiochus. Our prosperity means your advantage. Witness the honours that we never tire of heaping on you.

ANTIOCHUS. Your Grace's welfare is so dear to me that I do not seek to disguise what is hostile to your interests, but immediately bring it to your notice and denounce it!

HADRIAN. Do you praise yourself for this? If you withheld such information you would be guilty of treason to our Imperial Majesty.

ANTIOCHUS. I have never been disloyal.

HADRIAN. I do not question it. Come, if you have discovered some new danger, make it known to us.

ANTIOCHUS. A certain alien woman has recently come to this city with her three children.

HADRIAN. Of what sex are the children?

ANTIOCHUS. They are all girls.

HADRIAN. And you think that a handful of women threaten danger to the state?

ANTIOCHUS. I do, and very grave danger.

HADRIAN. Of what kind?

ANTIOCHUS. A disturbance of the peace.


ANTIOCHUS. What disturbs the peace and harmony of states more than religious differences?

HADRIAN. I grant you that. The whole Roman Empire witnesses to the serious troubles they can cause. The body politic is infected by the corpses of slaughtered Christians.

ANTIOCHUS. This woman of whom I speak is urging the people of this country to abandon the religion of their fathers and embrace the Christian faith.

HADRIAN. But have her words any effect?

ANTIOCHUS. Indeed they have. Our wives hate and scorn us to such an extent that they will not deign to eat with us, still less share our beds.

HADRIAN. This is a real danger, I admit.

ANTIOCHUS. You must protect yourself.

HADRIAN. That stands to reason. Let the woman be brought before me, and I will examine her and see what can be done.

ANTIOCHUS. You wish me to summon her?

HADRIAN. I have said it.


ANTIOCHUS. Foreign woman, what is your name?

SAPIENTIA. Sapientia.

ANTIOCHUS. The Emperor Hadrian orders you to present yourself at the palace.

SAPIENTIA. I am not afraid to go. I have a noble escort in my daughters. Nor do I tremble at the thought of meeting your scowling Emperor face to face.

ANTIOCHUS. It is the way of you Christian rabble to defy authority.

SAPIENTIA. We acknowledge the authority of Him Who rules the world; we know that He will not let His subjects be vanquished.

ANTIOCHUS. Not so much talk. To the palace.

SAPIENTIA. Go before us and show the way. We will follow you.


ANTIOCHUS. That is the Emperor you see there, seated on his throne. Be careful what you say to him.

SAPIENTIA. The word of Christ forbids us to take thought as to what we ought to say. His wisdom is sufficient for us.

HADRIAN. Are you there, Antiochus?

ANTIOCHUS. At your service, my lord.

HADRIAN. Are these the women whom you have arrested on account of their Christian opinions?

ANTIOCHUS. Yes, lord.

HADRIAN. I am amazed at their beauty; I cannot help admiring their noble and dignified manner.

ANTIOCHUS. Waste no time in admiring them, my lord. Make them worship the gods.

HADRIAN. It would be wiser to ask it as a favour to me at first. Then they may yield.

ANTIOCHUS. That may be best. This frail sex is easily moved by flattery.

HADRIAN. Noble matron, if you desire to enjoy my friendship, I ask you in all gentleness to join me in an act of worship of the gods.

SAPIENTIA. We have no desire for your friendship. And we refuse to worship your gods.

HADRIAN. You will try in vain to rouse my anger. I feel no indignation against you. I appeal to you and your daughters as lovingly as if I were their own father.

SAPIENTIA. My children are not to be cozened by such diabolical flattery. They scorn it as I do.

FAITH. Yes, and laugh at it in our hearts.

ANTIOCHUS. What are you muttering there?

SAPIENTIA. I was speaking to my daughters.

HADRIAN. I judge from appearances that you are of noble race, but I would know more—to what country and family you belong, and your name.

SAPIENTIA. Although we take no pride in it, I come of noble stock.

HADRIAN. That is easy to believe.

SAPIENTIA. My parents were princes of Greece, and I am called Sapientia.

HADRIAN. The splendour of your ancestry is blazoned in your face, and the wisdom of your name sparkles on your lips.

SAPIENTIA. You need not waste your breath in flattering us. We are not to be conquered by fair speeches.

HADRIAN. Why have you left your own people and come to live here?

SAPIENTIA. For no other reason than that we wished to know the truth. I came to learn more of the faith which you persecute, and to consecrate my daughters to Christ.

HADRIAN. Tell me their names.

SAPIENTIA. The eldest is called Faith, the second Hope, the youngest Charity.

HADRIAN. And how old are they?

SAPIENTIA. What do you say, children? Shall I puzzle his dull brain with some problems in arithmetic?

FAITH. Do, mother. It will give us joy to hear you.

SAPIENTIA. As you wish to know the ages of my children, O Emperor, Charity has lived a diminished evenly even number of years; Hope a number also diminished, but evenly uneven; and Faith an augmented number, unevenly even.

HADRIAN. Your answer leaves me in ignorance.

SAPIENTIA. That is not surprising, since not one number, but many, come under this definition.

HADRIAN. Explain more clearly, otherwise how can I follow you?

SAPIENTIA. Charity has now completed two olympiads, Hope two lustres, and Faith three olympiads.

HADRIAN. I am curious to know why the number "8," which is two olympiads, and the number "10," which is two lustres, are called "diminished"; also why the number "12," which is made up of three olympiads, is said to be "augmented."

SAPIENTIA, Every number is said to be "diminished" the parts of which when added together give a sum which is less than the number of which they are parts. Such a number is 8. For the half of 8 is 4, the quarter of 8 is 2, and the eighth of 8 is 1 ; and these added together give 7. It is the same with 10. Its half is 5, its fifth part 2, its tenth part 1, and these added together give 8. On the other hand, a number is said to be "augmented" when its parts added together exceed it. Such, for instance, is 12. Its half is 6, its third 4, its fourth 3, its sixth 2, its twelfth 1, and the sum of these figures 16. And in accordance with the principle which decrees that between all excesses shall rule the exquisite proportion of the mean, that number is called "perfect" the sum of the parts of which is equal to its whole. Such a number is 6, whose parts—a third, a half, and a sixth— added together, come to 6. For the same reason 28, 496, and 8000 are called "perfect."

HADRIAN. And what of the other numbers?

SAPIENTIA. They are all either augmented or diminished.

HADRIAN. And that "evenly even" number of which you spoke?

SAPIENTIA. That is one which can be divided into two equal parts, and these parts again into two equal parts, and so on in succession until we come to indivisible unity: 8 and 16 and all numbers obtained by doubling them are examples.

HADRIAN. Continue. We have not heard yet of the "evenly uneven" number.

SAPIENTIA. One which can be divided by two, but the parts of which after that are indivisible: 10 is such a number, and all others obtained by doubling odd numbers. They differ from the "evenly even" numbers because in them only the minor term can be divided, whereas in the "evenly even" the major term is also capable of division. In the first type, too, all the parts are evenly even in name and in quantity, whereas in the second type when the division is even the quotient is uneven, and vice versa.

HADRIAN. I am not familiar with these terms, and divisors and quotients alike mean nothing to me.[1]

SAPIENTIA. When numbers of any magnitude are set down in order. the first set down is called the "minor term" and the last the "major." When, in making a division, we say by how many the number is to be divided, we give the "divisor," but when we enumerate how many there are in each of the parts we set forth the"quotient."

HADRIAN. And the "unevenly even" numbers?

SAPIENTIA. They, like the "evenly even," can be halved, not only once, but sometimes twice, thrice, and even four times, but not down to indivisible unity.

HADRIAN. Little did I think that a simple question as to the age of these children could give rise to such an intricate and unprofitable dissertation.

SAPIENTIA. It would be unprofitable if it did not lead us to appreciate the wisdom of our Creator, and the wondrous knowledge of the Author of the world, Who in the beginning created the world out of nothing, and set everything in number, measure, and weight, and then, in time and the age of man, formulated a science which reveals fresh wonders the more we study it.

HADRIAN. I had my reasons for enduring your lecture with patience. I hope to persuade you to submit.


HADRIAN. To worshipping the gods.

SAPIENTIA. That we can never do.

HADRIAN. Take warning. If you are obstinate, you will be put to the torture.

SAPIENTIA. It is in your power to kill the body, but you will not succeed in harming the soul.

ANTIOCHUS. The day has passed, and the night is falling. This is no time to argue. Supper is ready.

HADRIAN. Let these women be taken to the prison near our palace, and give them three days to reflect.

ANTIOCHUS. Soldiers, see that these women are well guarded and given no chance of escape.


SAPIENTIA. Oh, my dearest ones! My beloved children! Do not let this narrow prison sadden you. Do not be frightened by the threat of sufferings to come.

FAITH. Our weak bodies may dread the torture, but our souls look forward with joy to the reward.

SAPIENTIA. You are only children, but your understanding is ripe and strong. It will triumph over your tender years.

HOPE. You must help us with your prayers. Then we shall conquer.

SAPIENTIA. This I pray without ceasing, this I implore—that you may stand firm in the faith which I instilled into you while you were infants at my breast.

CHARITY. Can we forget what we learned there? Never.

SAPIENTIA. I gave you milk. I nourished and cherished you, that I might wed you to a heavenly bridegroom, not to an earthly one. I trusted that for your dear sakes I might be deemed worthy of being received into the family of the Eternal King.

FAITH. For His love we are all ready to die.

SAPIENTIA. Oh, children, your words are sweeter to me than nectar!

HOPE. When we come before the tribunal you will see what courage our love will give us.

SAPIENTIA. Your mother will be crowned by your virginity and glorified by your martyrdom.

CHARITY. Let us go hand in hand to the tyrant and make him feel ashamed.

SAPIENTIA. We must wait till the hour comes when we are summoned.

FAITH. We chafe at the delay, but we must be patient.


HADRIAN. Antiochus, bring the Greek prisoners before us.

ANTIOCHUS. Step forward, Sapientia. The Emperor has asked for you and your daughters.

SAPIENTIA. Walk with me bravely, children, and persevere with one mind in the faith. Think only of the happiness before you—of the martyr's palm.

HOPE. We are ready. And He is with us for Whose love we are to be led to death.

HADRIAN. The three days' respite which of our clemency we granted you is over. If you have profited by it, obey our commands.

SAPIENTIA. We have profited by it. It has strengthened our determination not to yield.

ANTIOCHUS. It is beneath your dignity to bandy words with this obstinate woman. Have you not had enough of her insolence and presumption?

HADRIAN. Am I to send her away unpunished?

ANTIOCHUS. By no means.

HADRIAN. What then?

ANTIOCHUS. Address yourself to the little girls. If they defy you, do not spare them because of their tender years, but have them put to death. That will teach their obstinate mother a lesson.

HADRIAN. I will do as you advise.

ANTIOCHUS. This way you will succeed.

HADRIAN. Faith, there is the venerated statue of the great Diana. Carry a libation to the holy goddess, and you will win her favour.

FAITH. What a foolish man the Emperor must be to give such an order!

HADRIAN. What are you muttering there? Behave yourself and do not laugh.

FAITH. How can I help laughing? Such a lack of wisdom is ludicrous.

HADRIAN. Whose lack of wisdom?

FAITH. Why, yours!

ANTIOCHUS. You dare to speak to the Emperor so!

FAITH. I speak the truth.

ANTIOCHUS. This is not to be endured!

FAITH. What is it but folly to tell us to insult the Creator of the world and worship a bit of metal!

ANTIOCHUS. This girl is crazy—a raving lunatic! She calls the ruler of the world a fool!

FAITH. I have said it, and I am ready to repeat it. I shall not take back my words as long as I live.

ANTIOCHUS. That will not be long. You deserve to die at once for such impudence.

FAITH. I wish for nothing better than death in Christ.

HADRIAN. Enough of this! Let ten centurions take turns in flaying her with scourges.

ANTIOCHUS. She deserves it.

HADRIAN. Most valiant centurions, approach, and wipe out the insult which has been offered us.

ANTIOCHUS. That is the way.

HADRIAN. Ask her now, Antiochus, if she will yield.

ANTIOCHUS. Faith, will you now withdraw your insults to the Imperial Majesty, and promise not to repeat them?

FAITH. Why now?

ANTIOCHUS. The scourging should have brought you to your senses.

FAITH. These whips cannot silence me, as they do not hurt at all.

ANTIOCHUS. Cursed obstinacy! Was there ever such insolence?

HADRIAN. Although her body weakens under the chastisement, her spirit is still swollen with pride.

FAITH. Hadrian, you are wrong. It is not I who am weakening, but your executioners. They sweat and faint with fatigue.

HADRIAN. Antiochus, tell them to cut the nipples off her breasts. The shame will cow her.

ANTIOCHUS. I care not about the means, so long as she is forced to yield.

FAITH. You have wounded my pure breast, but you have not hurt me. And look! Instead of blood a stream of milk gushes from my wounds.

HADRIAN. Put her on a gridiron, and let fire be placed beneath so that she may be roasted to death.

ANTIOCHUS. She deserves a terrible death for her boldness in defying you.

FAITH. All you do to cause me suffering is a source of bliss to me. I am as happy on this gridiron as if it were a little boat at sea!

HADRIAN. Bring a brazier full of pitch and wax, and place it on the fire. Then fling this rebellious girl into the boiling liquid.

FAITH. I will leap into it joyfully of my own accord.

HADRIAN. So be it.

FAITH. I laugh at your threats. Look! Am I hurt? I am swimming merrily in the boiling pitch. Its fierce heat seems as cool to me as the morning dew.

HADRIAN. Antiochus, what can we do with her?

ANTIOCHUS. She must not escape.

HADRIAN. She shall be beheaded.

ANTIOCHUS. That seems the only way of conquering her.

FAITH. Now let my soul rejoice and exult in the Lord.

SAPIENTIA. O Christ, invincible Conqueror of Satan, give my child, Faith, endurance to the end!

FAITH. Holy and dear mother, say a last farewell to your daughter. Kiss your firstborn, but do not mourn for me, for my hands are outstretched to the reward of eternity.

SAPIENTIA. Oh, my daughter, my darling dear, I am not dismayed—I am not distressed! I bid you farewell rejoicing. I kiss your mouth and eyes, weeping for joy. My only prayer is that beneath the executioner's sword you may keep the mystery of your name inviolate.

FAITH. Oh, my sisters, born of the same womb, give me the kiss of peace, and prepare yourselves for the struggle!

HOPE. Help us with your prayers. Pray with all your might that we may be found worthy to follow in your footsteps.

FAITH. Listen to the words of our holy mother. She has always taught us to despise the things of earth that we may gain those which are eternal.

CHARITY. We shall obey her in everything. We want to be worthy of eternal joy.

FAITH. Come, executioner, do your duty, and put an end to my life.

SAPIENTIA. I embrace the severed head of my dead child, and as I cover it with kisses I praise Thee, O Christ, Who hast given the victory to a little maid.

HADRIAN. Hope, listen to me. Believe me, I advise you with fatherly affection.

HOPE. What advice do you give me?

HADRIAN. I beg you not to imitate your misguided sister. I would not have you undergo the same torture.

HOPE. Would that I were worthy to imitate her sufferings, and so win a reward like hers!

HADRIAN. Do not harden your young heart, but give way and burn incense before great Diana. Then I will adopt you as my own child, and love you most tenderly.

HOPE. I should not care to have you for a father, and I want no favours from you. You deceive yourself with vain hopes if you suppose that I shall submit.

HADRIAN. Be more careful in your speech or you will make me angry.

HOPE. Be angry. What is it to me?

ANTIOCHUS. I am amazed, Augustus, that you should tolerate for a moment such insolence from a pert little child! I boil with indignation that she should be allowed such licence.

HADRIAN. I wished to be merciful to her youth, but I can no longer be indulgent. She shall be punished as she deserves.

ANTIOCHUS. I wish that were possible.

HADRIAN. Come, lictors, and scourge this little rebel to death with your heaviest rods.

ANTIOCHUS. She deserves to feel the full weight of your anger, as she has mocked your gracious clemency.

HOPE. Here is the only clemency for which I long—here the only mercy I crave.

ANTIOCHUS. Sapientia, what are you murmuring there, standing with uplifted eyes by the body of your dead child?

SAPIENTIA. I am imploring Almighty God to give Hope the same firm courage that He gave Faith.

HOPE. Oh, mother, mother! How wonderful are your prayers! Even as you prayed the uplifted hands of the panting executioners became powerless. I have not felt a twinge of pain.

HADRIAN. So you do not mind scourging! We will try some sharper torture.

HOPE. The most savage and deadly you can invent! The more cruelty you show the greater will be your humiliation.

HADRIAN. Let her be suspended in the air, and lacerated with nails until her bowels gush forth, and the skin is stripped from her bones. Break her to pieces limb by limb.

ANTIOCHUS. That order is worthy of an emperor. The punishment fits the crime.

HOPE. Oh, Antiochus, you are as crafty as a fox, but you flatter with the cunning of a chameleon.

ANTIOCHUS. Be quiet, you wretch! I thank the gods you will soon not have a mouth to prattle with.

HOPE. It will not be as you hope. Both you and your master will be put to confusion.

HADRIAN. What is this strange sweetness in the air? If I am not mistaken a marvellous perfume fills the room.

HOPE. O Emperor, the torn shreds of my flesh are giving forth a heavenly fragrance to make you admit that you have no power to hurt me by torture!

HADRIAN. Antiochus, advise me.

ANTIOCHUS. We must think of some other punishment.

HADRIAN. Put in the brazier a vessel full of oil and wax and pitch. Bind her and throw her in.

ANTIOCHUS. Yes, she will not find it so easy to escape from Vulcan.

HOPE. Christ has before now made fire grow mild and change its nature.

HADRIAN. Antiochus, what is that sound? I seem to hear a noise like that of rushing waters.

ANTIOCHUS. My lord! My lord!

HADRIAN. What has happened?

ANTIOCHUS. The boiling fire has burst the cauldron! It has overflowed and consumed every man near it. Only the vile witch who caused the disaster has escaped unhurt.

HADRIAN. It seems we are worsted.

ANTIOCHUS. Yes, we can do nothing.

HADRIAN. She must be beheaded like the other.

ANTIOCHUS. By the sword only can she be destroyed.

HOPE. Charity, my dear, my only sister, have no fear of the tyrant's threats, and do not wince at the thought of suffering. Be strong in faith, and strive to follow the example of your sisters who are going before you to the palace of heaven.

CHARITY. I am weary of this earth. I do not want to be separated from you even for a short time.

HOPE. Have courage! Stretch out your hands to the palm. We shall be separated only for a moment. Soon, very soon, we shall be together in heaven.

CHARITY. Soon! Soon!

HOPE. Be joyful, noble mother! Do not grieve for me. You should laugh, not weep, to see me die for Christ.

SAPIENTIA. Indeed I do rejoice, but my joy will be full only when your little sister has followed you, slain in the same way—and when my turn comes, mine last of all.

HOPE. The blessed Trinity will give you back your three children.

SAPIENTIA. Courage, my child! The executioner comes towards us with drawn sword.

HOPE. Welcome, sword! Do Thou, O Christ, receive my soul driven from its bodily mansion for the confession of Thy Name.

SAPIENTIA. Oh, Charity, lovely offspring of my womb, the one hope of my bosom, do not disappoint your mother who expects you to win this last fight! Despise safety now, and you will attain the same glory which shines on your sisters, and, like them, wear the crown of unspotted virginity.

CHARITY. Support me with your holy prayers, mother. Pray that I may be worthy to share their joy.

SAPIENTIA. Stand fast in the faith to the end, and your reward will be an everlasting holiday.

HADRIAN. Now, little Charity. Your sisters' insolence has exhausted my patience and exasperated me. I want no more long speeches. I shall not waste much time on you. Obey my commands, and you shall enjoy all the good things this life has to offer. Disobey, and evil will fall on you.

CHARITY. I long for the good things. I will not have the evil.

HADRIAN. That pleases me, and you shall profit by it. I will be indulgent and set you an easy task.

CHARITY. What is it?

HADRIAN. You shall say "Great is Diana." That is all. I will not compel you to sacrifice.

CHARITY. I will not say it.


CHARITY. Because I will not tell a lie. My sisters and I were born of the same parents, instructed in the same mysteries, and confirmed in the same faith. We have the same wish, the same understanding, the same resolution. Therefore, I am never likely to differ from them in anything.

ANTIOCHUS. Oh, what an insult—to be defied by a mere doll!

CHARITY. Although I am small, my reason is big enough to put you to shame.

HADRIAN. Take her away, Antiochus, and have her stretched on the rack and whipped.

ANTIOCHUS. I fear that stripes will be of no use.

HADRIAN. Then order a furnace to be heated for three days and three nights, and let her be cast into the flames.

CHARITY. A mighty man! He cannot conquer a child of eight without calling in fire to help him!

HADRIAN. Go, Antiochus, and see that my orders are carried out.

CHARITY. He may pretend to obey to satisfy your cruelty, but he will not be able to hurt me. Stripes will not wound my body, and the flames will not singe my hair or my garments.

HADRIAN. We shall see.

CHARITY. Yes, we shall see.


HADRIAN. What is wrong, Antiochus? Why have you returned, and with such a dejected air?

ANTIOCHUS. When you know the reason, you will be dejected too.

HADRIAN. Come, what is it?

ANTIOCHUS. That little vixen whom you handed over to me to be tortured was first scourged in my presence, and I swear that not so much as the surface of her delicate skin was grazed. Then I had her cast into the fiery furnace which glowed scarlet with the tremendous heat.

HADRIAN. Enough! Come to the point.

ANTIOCHUS. The flames belched forth, and five thousand men were burned to death.

HADRIAN. And what happened to her?

ANTIOCHUS. You mean to Charity?

HADRIAN. Who else?

ANTIOCHUS. She ran to and fro, playing in the fierce whirlwind of smoke and flame, and sang praises to her God. Those who watched closely said that three men dressed in white walked by her side.

HADRIAN. I blush to see her again, as I have not been able to harm her.

ANTIOCHUS. She must perish by the sword like the others.

HADRIAN. Let us use it then, and without delay.


ANTIOCHUS. Uncover that obstinate little neck, Charity, and prepare for the sword of the executioner.

CHARITY. This time I do not wish to resist. I am glad to obey.

SAPIENTIA. Now, little one, now we must give thanks; now we must exult in Christ. Now I am free from anxiety, for I am certain of your triumph.

CHARITY. Kiss me, mother, and commend my soul to Christ.

SAPIENTIA. May He Who quickened you in my womb receive the spirit He breathed into you!

CHARITY. Glory be to Thee, O Christ, Who hast called me to Thyself, and honoured me with the martyr's crown!

SAPIENTIA. Farewell, beloved child, farewell; and when you are united to Christ in heaven give a thought to the mother who gave you life even when the years had exhausted her strength.


SAPIENTIA. Noble matrons, gather round me, and help me bury the bodies of my children.

MATRONS. We will strew herbs and spices on their little bodies, and solemnize their funeral rites with ceremony.

SAPIENTIA. Great is the generosity and wonderful the kindness you show to me and my dead.

MATRONS. We would do anything to relieve your pain.

SAPIENTIA. I know it.

MATRONS. What place have you chosen for their burial?

SAPIENTIA. It is three miles outside the city. I hope that is not too far for you?

MATRONS. By no means. We will follow their bodies to the place you have chosen.


SAPIENTIA. This is the place.

MATRONS. It is well chosen. The very spot to keep the relics of these blessed martyrs!

SAPIENTIA. O Earth, I commit my precious little flowers to thy keeping! O Earth, cherish them in thy spacious bosom until they spring forth again at the resurrection more glorious and fair! O Christ, fill their souls with light, and give rest and peace to their bones!


SAPIENTIA. I thank you all from my heart for the comfort you have brought me since my loss.

MATRONS. Would you like us to remain here with you?

SAPIENTIA. I thank you, no.

MATRONS. Why not?

SAPIENTIA. Because your health will suffer if you fatigue yourselves further on my account. Have you not done enough in watching with me three days. Depart in peace. Return home happy.

MATRONS. Will you not come with us?

SAPIENTIA. I cannot.

MATRONS. What, then, is your plan?

SAPIENTIA. I shall stay here in the hope that my petition will be granted, and that what I most desire will come to pass.

MATRONS. What is that petition? What do you desire?

SAPIENTIA. This only—that when my prayer is ended I may die in Christ.

MATRONS. Will you not let us stay to the end, then, and give you burial?

SAPIENTIA. As you please.

O Adonai Emmanuel, begotten by the Divine Creator of all things before time began, and born in time of a Virgin Mother—O Thou Who in Thy dual nature remainest most wonderfully one Christ, the unity of person not being divided by the diversity of natures, nor yet the diversity of natures confounded in the unity of person—to Thee let the serene angelic choir, singing in sweet harmony with the spheres, raise an exultant song! Let all created things praise Thee, because Thou Who alone with the Holy Ghost art form without matter, by the will of the Father and the co-operation of the Spirit didst deign to become man, passible like men, yet impassible like God. O Thou Who didst not shrink from tasting death and destroyed it by Thy Resurrection that none who believe in Thee should perish, but know eternal life, on Thee I call! I do not forget that Thou, perfect God yet true man, didst promise that those who for Thy sake renounced their earthly possessions would be rewarded a hundredfold and receive the gift of eternal life. Inspired by that promise, Thou seest that I have done what I could; of my own free will, and for Thy sake, I have sacrificed the children I bore. Oh, in Thy goodness do not delay the fulfilment of Thy promise, but free me swiftly from the bonds of this flesh that I may see my children and rejoice with them. Grant me the joy of hearing them sing the new song as they follow Thee, O Lamb of the Virgin! Let me be gladdened by their glory, and although I may not like them chant the mystical song of virginity, let me praise Thee, Who art not Thyself the Father, yet art of the same substance as the Father, with Whom and with the Holy Ghost, one Lord of the whole world, one King of all things upon the earth and in the heights above and the deeps below, Thou dost reign and rule for ever and ever!

MATRONS. O Lord, receive her soul! Amen.

  1. It has been my duty to preserve this rather tiresome numerical discourse, which no doubt Roswitha introduced to impress the "learned men" to whom she submitted her work, because it throws an interesting light on the studies pursued in such a monastery as Gandersheim in the 10th century. Equivalent modern English terms have been employed where the original, by change of usage, has become misleading. For example, "divisor" and "quotient" have been substituted for "denomination" and "quantity."