The Poetry of Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg

Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg (1633–1694) was an Austrian-born poet of the early modern period whose devotional sonnets blend technical skill with vivid imagery and intensity of feeling. Her first and best-known book, Geistliche Sonnette, Lieder und Gedichte (Spiritual Sonnets, Songs and Poems), published in 1662, contains 250 sonnets as well as many lyric poems.

Winnipeg poets Joanne Epp, Sally Ito, and Sarah Klassen began translating a series of seven sonnets for Holy Week. The Holy Week of 2020 was unusually fraught and difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the work of translation became a life-line for them. They decided to continue with Greiffenberg’s sonnets for Easter, Ascension, and beyond, as well as her other lyric poems. You can read more of the translated poems at their blog.: https://greiffenbergsonnets.blogspot.com/

 

[German]
Uber das kleine wolbekandte Blümlein: Vergiß mein nicht

Schönes Blümlein! deine Farbe / zeigt des Höchsten Hoheit an /

als spräch sie: vergiß mein nicht / du / dem also hoch beliebet

dieser Erden Eitelkeit / die doch endlich nur betrübet.

Wisse / daß man / meiner denkend / wol vergnüget leben kan.

Von dir kleinem Sitten-Lehrer lern’ Geheimnus jederman.

Deiner Blätlein fünffte Zahl / in mir die Gedächtnus übet

ihre fünff ergebne Sinn / und sie durch betrachten schiebet

in die fünff hochwehrten Wunden / welche unsre Lebens-Bahn.

Deines Krauts und Stängels grün lehret / daß wir hoffen sollen /

Gott werd’ unser nicht vergessen / ob wir wol auf Erden seyn /

unter manchem Creutz und Vnglück / werd auch bald zu sich uns holen.

Ach vergiß mein nicht / O Schöpffer! deine Hülf’ auch mir erschein’.

Ist doch meiner Hoffnung Safft / her aus deinem Wort gequollen /

in dir liget grosse Weißheit / Blümlein / wärstu noch so klein!

 

[English]
On the Familiar Little Flower, Forget-Me-Not

Lovely little flower, your color points to highest Highness

as if to say “Forget me not, you who are so in love

with earthly vanities that in the end will only trouble you.”

Know this: whoever remembers me can live content.”

This secret we can learn from you, little moral-teacher.

Your petals, five in number – my memory, using

its five senses, leads me to contemplate

the five most-precious Wounds that point the way to Life.

Your foliage and green stems teach that we should hope:

God will not forget us, though we on earth

must endure misfortune and many a cross.

He will bring us to Himself.

Oh, forget me not, Creator! Help even me!

Does not my hope spring from your word?

In you lies much wisdom, little flower, though so small.

 


Joanne Epp is a poet who serves as sub-organist at St. Margaret’s Anglican in Winnipeg. Her first book of poems, Eigenheim, was published in 2015, and her second will appear in 2021.

Sarah Klassen is a Winnipeg poet and fiction writer. Her seventh poetry collection, The Tree of Life, will be released in fall, 2020. Her first novel, The Wittenberg’s was published in 2013.

Sally Ito is a poet and translator of poetry who lives in Winnipeg. Her latest book of poetry was Alert To Glory, published in 2011. Her latest book is a cultural memoir titled The Emperor’s Orphans published by Turnstone Press in 2018.

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