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From The English Correspondence of Saint Boniface: Being for the Most Part Letters Exchanged Between the Apostle of the Germans and His English Friends: Translated and Edited with an Introductory Sketch of the Saint’s Life by Edward Kylie, M.A.; London: Chatto & Windus: 1911; pp. 38-70.
Aedilwald asks Aldhelm, Abbot of Malmesbury, to instruct him. He sends poems, one treating of Wynfrith’s journey abroad and addressed to him. Before 706.
To the holy abbot, Aldhelm, bound to me, as his merits demand, by an unbreakable chain of burning love, Aedilwald, a humble suppliant of thy paternal goodness, greetings of eternal salvation in the lord.
During the course of the summer, while this unhappy country was being terribly harassed by great expeditions of death-dealing invaders, I lingered in thy company for the sake of my reading; then thy holy wisdom — thoroughly acquainted, as I believe, with almost all literary compositions contained whether in profane volumes written in an elegant and rhetorical style or in spiritual books carefully composed after the manner of dogmatic exposition — clearly revealed to me, when the veil of stupidity and folly had been quickly turned away, the deeper studies of 39 the liberal arts, which, because of their mysteries and difficult character, are barred to the ignorant mind. After the greedy jaws of my thirsty intelligence had eagerly consumed to the last the banquet laid by the well-stored intellect, my mind, still lean and pallid, was fully revived by the expectation based on thy generous and flattering promise willingly to educate and instruct me with all the means of information which my moderate industry craved. Wherefore, my beloved guide to learning undefiled, we think it well that thou shouldst readily prove the truth of thy words by corresponding action, encouraged, as we are, by the words of holy scripture: “My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, thou hast engaged fast thy hand to a stranger: thou art ensnared with the words of thy mouth, and caught with thine own words.”2 But if thou canst not remember that thou art tied and bound by the strong bonds of thy given promise, yet, since from my most tender infancy thou hast loved and nourished me, strengthened me with the more delicate food of thine industry, and brought me step by step to full manhood, it is thought right by all of sane intelligence that thou shouldst nourish me, fed until now upon food suited to the tender mind, with the more solid viands of deeper 40 wisdom. If my humble devotion begs and insists, do not refuse to offer a feast for my nourishment, nor, though thou regardest me as of little account, to enrich thy adopted son at the right moment from the full store of thy paternal knowledge; that the hated groups of audacious rivals may not show their joy and satisfaction with the ringing laughter of eager blame, when they find that the successor is not heir to the rich treasure of paternal philosophy, but remains in the poverty of barbarous ignorance; and let me not, in my misery, be compared with Rehoboam, who, though sprung of the noble stock of King Solomon, distinguished both for his admirable wisdom and his abundant riches, was born in an unhappy hour and lacked almost entirely his father’s good fortune. Wherefore, come, discharge thy promise and bring to completion the generous work of instruction once begun, assured that thou shalt win thereby the greater glory of an eternal reward, on the assurance of the Lord who says: “He that endureth to the end shall be saved.”3
We have added to this letter three poems suitable for singing, arranged in different ways. The first employs the dactylic hexameter, usual in heroic poetry; its metre is, I think, carefully worked out, and through chance, or, to speak more accurately, through the will of divine providence, 41 it is divided into seventy equal verses. The third, which has no regular metre, contains eight syllables in each verse, and one and the same letter is repeated at the beginning of the words in the same line; it has been arranged hastily with a rapid pen. I am sending it dedicated to thee, my wise teacher. The middle one, which is composed with the same arrangement of verses and syllables, deals with the journey across the sea of Wynfrith, my client and thine: I have shown and forwarded it to him. These I thought it necessary to lay before the eyes of your4 holiness; it seemed proper in my poor judgment that I should first reveal to thee my feeble literary efforts. Since, if approved by your taste and corrected in accordance with the true standard, they become forthwith acceptable to great numbers of readers.
Farewell in Christ.
1 This side-figure is in each case the number of the letter in Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Epistolarum III.
2 Prov. vi. 12. The Scriptural references are to the Vulgate; the English rendering is that given in the Authorized Version.
3 Matt. x. 22.
4 Aedilwald here uses the plural “you,” instead of the more familiar “thou” which he has used up to this point. In practically every case where such changes occur in the letters, the translation follows the text. The writer usually lapses into the more official and correct form, as though he suddenly became conscious of the dignity of the person addressed.
Wynfrith encourages the youth Nithard in the pursuit of virtue and of his literary studies. 716-717.
To Nithard, dear companion and beloved friend, whom neither a perishable gift of worldly wealth nor the pleasing charm and blandishments of flattering words won to me, but whom the splendid affinity and kinship of the spirit recently linked with me by an imperishable chain of love, Wynfrith, a suppliant, greetings of eternal welfare in Jesus Christ.
From my humble place I pray, noble youth and dear brother, that thou mayst not fail to recall the words of Solomon the wise: “In all thy works remember thy last end: and thou shalt never sin,”1 and elsewhere: “Walk while ye have the light, lest the darkness of death come upon ye,”2 because the things of the present will quickly pass, but those that abide for ever will soon be at hand. All the treasures of this world, whether in gleaming gold and silver, or in starlike gems, or in the strange 43 diversity of sumptuous food and costly garments, by a just comparison pass like shadows, disappear like smoke, vanish like foam, for the psalmist truly says: “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth,”3 and elsewhere: “My days are like a shadow that declineth: and I am withered like grass.”4
Wealth-loving sybarites are known from Holy Scripture, to keep in misery a fruitless watch,5 to spin vainly fragile spider-webs which catch a light breeze or dust, since, according to the psalmist, they heap up riches and know not for whom they gather them. And when death the agent of the hated Pluto, grinding his bloody teeth lurks at the threshold, terror-stricken and deprived of all heavenly aid they suddenly lose their precious and false wealth, which night and day they greedily and anxiously saved, and with it lose their souls. Then, caught away by fiendish hands, they enter the awful gates of Erebus to pay an eternal penalty.
Since all these things are true beyond a scruple of a doubt, I implore thee with the most earnest prayers which 44 my love can suggest, that having considered their truth thou wilt hasten to revive the grace of natural ability which is in thee, and wilt not extinguish in the mire and dust of earthly desires the knowledge of the liberal arts and the bright spiritual fire of divine understanding; but that, mindful of what the psalmist says of the happy man: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord: and in His law doth he meditate day and night,”6 and elsewhere: “O how love I Thy law! it is my meditation all the day,”7 and of what is said in Deuteronomy concerning the law of Moses: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night,”8 thou wilt put aside the harmful obstacles of other things, and wilt strive to pursue the study of the Holy Scriptures with all the bent of thy mind, and thereby to acquire that truly noble and splendid grace which is divine wisdom. For it is more splendid than gold, brighter than silver, more resplendent than the carbuncle, clearer than crystal, richer than topaz, and on the authority of him who speaks wisdom, all precious things are not to be compared with it. What, beloved brother, can youth more properly seek or age more soberly enjoy than the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures? Guiding the ship of our soul it will bring it, without shipwreck in the 45 dangerous storm, to the beautiful shore of paradise and the eternal joy of the angels in heaven. Of it the same wise man has said: “Wisdom overcometh evil. She reacheth therefore from end to end mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly. Her have I loved and have sought her out from my youth, and have desired to take her for my spouse: and I became a lover of her beauty. She glorifieth her nobility by being versant with God: yea, the Lord of all things hath loved her. For it is she that teacheth the knowledge of God.”9
Wherefore, if the Omnipotent God wills that returning, as I purpose to do, I should reach those parts,10 I promise to be thy faithful friend to all things and in the study of the Holy Scriptures, so far as my strength allows, thy devoted assistant.
Fare well, my brother, in youth’s flower and strength,
Mayst flourish with the Lord in His eternal home,
Where martyrs hymn the King in heavenly choirs,
And prophets and apostles add their meed of praise,
Where, for eternity, the King of Kings His subjects dowers,
There mayst thou bear the form of cherubin and seraphin,
To the apostles heir, of prophets son.
46 Nithard, avoid the dark contagion of this lowly earth,
In punishment of Hell will it involve thee,
The choirs above the heaven’s blue seek to discover,
Hosts singing to the God of Truth eternally,
Angelic canticles; there in the highest place
Resplendent stand; the golden prize of Heaven’s court
Draw down upon thy gleaming brows, and with thy praise
Hymn Christ on His celestial throne.
1 Ecclesiasticus vii. 40.
2 Cf. John xii. 35.
3 Cf. Ps. cii. 15.
4 Ps. ci. 12.
5 Reading for the apo ton grammaton agiis frustratis adflicti, inservire excubiis of the text, apo ton grammaton agion ( since agiis stands for the ungrammatical agiois in ἀπὸ τῶν γραμμάτων ἁγίοις ) frustratis adflicti inservire excubiis.
[Both of the Latin phrases given are exactly the same in the text, nonsensically. Bill Thayer, a living saint, has corrected it, the sense and the intent. — Elf.Ed.]
6 Ps. i. 2.
7 Ps. cxxi. 97.
8 Josh. i. 8.
9 Sap. viii. 1-4.
10 Hauck (Kirchengeschichte Deutschland, i. 418 n. 2) conjectures that Boniface is writing here of a proposed return to Friesland.
Daniel, Bishop of Winchester, gives the priest, Wynfrith, a general letter of introduction. 718.
To the pious and clement kings and to all princes, to the reverend and beloved bishops, to the holy abbots, the priests, and the spiritual children of Christ, Daniel, servant of the servants of God.
The commands of God must be observed by all the faithful with sincere devotion, and the Holy Scriptures show how great is the reward of hospitality and how acceptable it is to God to discharge kind offices to travellers. The holy Abraham, because of bountiful hospitality, deserved to receive the blessed angels and to enjoy converse with them. Even so Lot, through the same discharge of pious offices, was snatched from the flames of Sodom; he was obedient to the commands of Heaven, and the grace of hospitality saved him from doom in the flames. So it will avail to your eternal salvation if you show to the holy priest and servant of the Omnipotent God, Wynfrith, who bears this letter, the love which God himself prizes and enjoins. Receiving the servants of God, you receive 48 Him, for He has promised: “He that recieveth you receiveth Me.”1 Doing this with heartfelt devotion you fulfil the bidding of God, and trusting to the divine promise you will have eternal reward with Him.
May the grace of God protect you.
1 Matt. x. 40.
Bugga congratulates Boniface on the successful issue of his affairs. She promises that she will send later “The Sufferings of the Martyrs” for which he has asked, and sends other gifts. 720-722.
To Boniface, or Wynfrith, honourable servant of God, distinguished by many spiritual gifts, worthy priest of God, Bugga, a lowly handmaiden, sends her undying love.
Be it known to thee, my gracious friend, that I give thanks to Almighty God without ceasing, because, as I learned from thy letter, He has poured upon thee His manifold mercies, and jealously guarded thee on thy way through unknown countries. First he inclined the pontiff, who holds the chair of Peter, to smile on thy heart’s wish. Afterwards he laid low before thee, Rathbod, that enemy of the Catholic Church; and then he revealed to thee in a dream that thou wert to reap the harvest of God and to gather the sheaves of holy souls into the granary of the heavenly kingdom. Wherefore, I acknowledge the more freely that no temporal vicissitudes can move my 50 mind from its steady guardianship of thy love. But the flames of that love burn the stronger in me, since I know that, through the merits of thy prayers, I have come to a harbour of some quiet. And so, again I humbly beg thee, deign to offer thy intercession before God for my poor self, that His grace may keep me safe under thy protection.
I would also have thee know that The Sufferings of the Martyrs, which thou didst ask to have sent thee, I have not yet been able to obtain, but I shall send it when I can. And do thou, my beloved, send to console me what thou hast promised in thy kindest of letters, some selections from the Holy Scriptures.
I beg too, that thou wilt offer holy masses for my relative ***, who was dear to me beyond all others. With this messenger I send thee now fifty shillings and an altar pall, because I could not get larger gifts. But these, though small, are sent with my fondest love.
Fare well throughout this life in sanctity and “love unfeigned.”1
1 2 Cor. vi. 6.
Daniel, Bishop of Winchester, instructs Boniface as to what means he should use in converting the heathen to Christianity. 723-725.
To Boniface, honoured and beloved leader, Daniel, servant of the people of God.
Although, my beloved brother and fellow-priest, I rejoice that thou dost deserve the first reward of virtue, who trusting in the might of the faith hast boldly attacked the stony and hitherto barren hearts of the heathen, and working them tirelessly with the plough of gospel-preaching dost strive to change them by daily toll into fertile harvest-fields, so that the words of the prophet and of the evangelist may be applied to thee, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness”1 and the rest, yet a portion of the second prize will come, not unjustly, to those who give what aid they can to such holy and saving work, and supply the needs of the preachers with the corresponding means of strength, that they may be eager to 52 take up the task of preaching thus begun and to beget spiritual sons for Christ.
Hence, out of devotion and goodwill, I have sought to make to thy prudence a few suggestions, that thou mayst know, how best in my judgment to overcome promptly the obstinacy of ignorant minds. Thou shouldst not offer opposition to them concerning the genealogy of their false gods. Thou shouldst suffer them rather, to claim that they were begotten by others through the intercourse of man and woman; then thou canst show that gods and goddesses who were born after the manner of men were men rather than gods, and in that they existed not before, had therefore a beginning.
When they have learned perforce that the gods had a beginning, since some were born of others, they must be asked whether they think this universe had a beginning or was always in existence. If it had a beginning, who created it? For certainly they cannot find for the gods begotten before the establishment of the universe any place where these could subsist and dwell; by the universe I mean not merely the visible earth and sky, but the whole extent of space, which the heathen themselves can grasp with the imagination. But if they maintain that the universe always existed without a beginning, seek to refute and convince them by many arguments and proofs; if they go 53 on contending, ask them: Who ruled it? How did they reduce beneath their sway and bring under their jurisdiction a universe that existed before them? Whence and by whom and when was the first god or goddess constituted or begotten? Do they suppose that the gods and goddesses still beget other gods and goddesses? If they do not, when or why have they ceased? If they do, the number of the gods must now be infinite; and who is the most powerful among so many and such great beings, is unknown to mortals, so a man must be on his guard for fear of offending the strongest. Do they think the gods should be worshipped for temporal and present blessings, or for an eternal and future reward? If for a temporal, let them show in what respect the heathen are happier than the Christians. What again do the heathen mean to confer by their sacrifices upon their gods, who have all things under their sway; or why do the gods leave it in the power of those subject to them to decide what tribute to offer? If they need such things, why could they not themselves have made a better choice? If they do not need them, the people are wrong to suppose that the gods can be appeased with such offerings of victims.
These questions, and many like them, which it would take too long to enumerate, thou shouldst propose to 54 them in no irritating or offensive manner, but with the greatest calmness and moderation. And from time to time their superstitions should be compared with our, that is Christian, dogmas, and touched upon indirectly, so that the heathen more out of confusion than exasperation may blush for their absurd opinions, and recognize that their detestable rites and legends do not escape our notice.
It would also be natural to infer that if their gods are omnipotent and beneficent and just, not only do they reward their worshippers, but punish those who despise them. But if they do both in the temporal order, why do they spare the Christians, who turn nearly the whole world from their worship and overthrow their statutes? And these too, that is the Christians, possess the fertile lands and the provinces fruitful in wine and olives and overflowing with other riches, and have left them, that is, the heathen with their gods, only frozen lands in which these latter, banished from the whole world, are wrongly thought to hold sway.
There must be constantly brought before them the supremacy of the Christian world: by comparison, those who persevere in the old-time vanity are very few.
And that they may not boast of the sway of the gods over these people as legitimate and existing always from the beginning, point out to them that the whole world 55 was given over to the worship of idols until, illuminated by the knowledge of the Omnipotent God, its creator and ruler, it was vivified through the grace of Christ and reconciled to God. For when among Christians the children of the faithful are baptized daily, what do they do but purify themselves singly from the uncleanness and guilt of paganism in which the whole world was once involved?
These things I have sought out of love for thee to bring to thy notice, though I am so weakened by bodily illness, that I can fitly say with the psalmist: “I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in faithfulness has afflicted me.” Wherefore do I the more earnestly entreat thy reverence to pour out, together with those who with thee serve Christ in the spirit, prayers and entreaties for me, that the Lord who made me drink the wine of sorrow may hasten with His tender mercy; that as He punished justly so He may graciously pardon, and of His goodness suffer me to sing with rejoicing the verse of the prophet: “According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart Thy comforts have given joy to my soul.”2 I pray that thou mayst fare well in Christ and remember me, dear fellow-priest.
1 Isa. xl. 3; Matt. iii. 3.
2 Ps. xciii. 19.
Boniface urges some one to pray to God for him. About 735.
To a venerable and reverend brother, connected with him by ties of spiritual kinship, Boniface, lowly servant of the servants of God, greetings of love in Christ.
With humblest entreaty we beg thee of thy brotherly mercy to be mindful of our weakness and to make intercession for us since by reason of our sins we are buffeted from all sides by the storms of a dangerous sea: asking Him who dwelleth on high and looketh down on the low things and pardoneth our faults to put the word into our mouths so that the gospel of Christ’s glory may have free course and be glorified among the nations.1
1 2 Thess. iii. 1.
Egburg writes to Wynfrith, of her desolation and her regard for him. She asks his prayers. 716-720.
To Wynfrith, holy father and true friend, by right and merit worthy of honour, filled with the grace of divine knowledge and of religion, Egburg, the lowliest of thy pupils, both men and women, sends wishes for welfare eternal in the Lord.
Thy love is as a bond that holds me; since I tasted it in my inner being, like some honeysweet essence the sweetness of it fills my soul. And now, though I have been robbed of the sight of thee, when I but scarce attained it, yet shall I always hold thy neck entwined with a sisterly embrace. Wherefore, my erstwhile beloved brother, thou shalt be called in the Lord of Lords alike father and brother, for after a bitter death and cruel took from me my brother Oshere, whom I cherished beyond all others, I put thee in my love before almost all men. And to waste words no longer, not a day unrolls its length, not a night passes away but I recall thy teaching. It is because of this, believe me before God, that I 58 embrace thee with all my love. And I trust in thee because I never forget that friendly affection which I know thou didst always have for my brother. Though in knowledge and virtue he surpassed me, yet in love and regard for thee I do not come behind him. Time has run quickly on its course, but the dark cloud of grief has never abandoned me;1 the lengthening period has only added to my woes, as it is written: “The love of man brings sorrow, but the love of Christ illuminates the heart.” And after my dearest sister Wethburg — a new wound, a fresh grief — suddenly vanished form my sight,2 with whom I grew up and was nurtured at the same breast, for the one mother bore us, in Jesus’ name I declare everywhere was sorrow and desolation, and the face of death.3 I should have preferred to die, if so it had pleased God, to whom hidden things are plain, or if tardy death had not delayed. But now, what shall I say? Before that hour, not bitter death but a still more bitter parting unexpectedly divided us, her, I think, the happy one, me the unhappy one, left, like something cast aside, to serve this world. I loved her so dearly, whom now, I hear, a Roman prison holds. But the love of Christ which grew and flourished in her 59 breast, is stronger and mightier than all bonds, and “Perfect love shows fear the door.” Behold, the Ruler of high Olympus,4 who so enriches you with divine doctrine, grants happiness amidst unspeakable delights, and in his law thou wilt meditate day and night; as it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.”5 She is now climbing the steep and narrow path; but I lie in the depths bound by the fetters of the law of the flesh. On the Day of Judgment, rejoicing with the Lord she will say: “I was in prison and thou didst come unto me.”6
Thou too, at the resurrection, when the twelve apostles are seated on their twelve seats, wilt have thy seat there; and over all those whom thou hast won by thine own labours, wilt thou, their leader, heir to a golden crown, rejoice before the throne of the Eternal King. But I, still in this vale of tears, weep, as is right, for mine own sins, because God has made me unworthy to be joined with such friends. Therefore, believe me, not so eagerly does the storm-tossed sailor long for the harbour, nor the thirsting fields crave rain, nor the anxious mother on the curved shore await her son, as I long for a 60 sight of thee.7 But borne down by my sins and faults innumerable I have been brought to despair of being freed from the dangers that threaten me. Wherefore, a sinner, cast at thy feet, out of my heart’s inmost recesses, I have called to thee, O my father, from the borders of the world, that, as my soul requires, thou shouldst raise me upon the rock of thy prayers, for thou hast become my hope, and a strong tower against my visible and invisible foes. And to console my boundless sorrow, and to calm the wave of my grief, let thy strength be set as a prop to my weakness, so that it may not utterly fail. And I humbly ask thee, deign to send me for my comfort, some holy relics, or a few words from thy hand, that in them I may always have thee with me.
Farewell and all success be thine, while thou dost live for God, and dost again and again intercede for me.
I too, Ealdbeorcth, a poor servant of Christ, greet thee in the Lord with all affection. I beg thee remember in thy holy prayers that friendship thou didst once pledge; so that, though separated in the body, we may be joined in memory.
1 Aeneid viii. 258.
2 Aeneid ix. 658.
3 Aeneid ii. 369-370.
4 Aeneid ii. 779.
5 Rom. x. 15.
6 Matt. xxv. 36-43.
7 Jerome, letter to Ruffina (ed. Vallarsius, i. 10).
Abbess Eangyth and Heaburg thank Wynfrith for his letters. They write of their misfortunes and of their desire to go to Rome. They recommend Denewald. 719-722.
To Wynfrith called Boniface, blessed in the Lord, honourable in faith and in love, enriched with the dignity of a priest, crowned with flowers of virgin chastity as with a garland of lilies, trained in the knowledge of doctrine, Eangyth, unworthy handmaid among the Lord’s handmaidens, who, though undeserving, holds the place of abbess, and her only daughter Heaburg, called Bugga, send greetings in the Holy Trinity.
To thank thee for the love and affection which thou didst send in the letter brought by the messenger from across the sea no words from our lips can avail. Happy are we if thy praise of us is merited, though we fear greatly that praise undeserved is more of a reproach than a commendation.
Beloved, brother in the spirit more than in the flesh, lavishly endowed with spiritual graces, God alone is our witness, that by the tears which thou canst see staining 62 the letter, to thee alone have we wished to tell how we are weighed down by a crushing load of misery, and by the distraction of worldly affairs. As when the might of the foam-laden sea sweeps and rends the mountainous billows broken on the rocks, and the raging winds and tempests drive in headlong wrath through the long channel and the boat keels are upturned, and the ship’s mast is bent under, so the vessels of our souls are shaken by a great coil of woes and the burden of many calamities; thus the voice of Truth speaks of the house in the gospel: “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house,” and the rest.1
First and beyond all the woes which the aforementioned evils from without create must be put the chain of innumerable offences, and the perfect confidence which rests upon no sure ground. It is not so much thought on our own souls, but, what is more difficult and serious, thought on the souls of all those of different sex and age committed to us. We are to serve these many and varied minds and characters and afterwards to give an account before the judgment-seat of Christ not only for manifest sins in deed or in word, but also for those hidden thoughts which escape all men, and are plain to God alone; it is to lead a battle with one line against two, with ten thousand 63 in the face of twenty thousand. And to the care of souls are added difficulties with household affairs and the disputes and discords which the enemy of all goodness sows; he infects the hearts of men with bitter malice and scatters it among all mankind, but especially among monks and the dwellings of monks, for he knows that “the mighty shall be mightily tormented.”2
Besides, poverty and the scarcity of temporal things grind us and the barrenness of our land; and the hostility of the king before whom we are accused by those who envy us, as a wise man says; “For the bewitching of vanity obscureth good things.” So, too, the service of the king and queen, of the bishop and the prefect, the nobles and counts: it is all too long to tell, and can be reviewed more easily in the mind than by word of mouth.
Added to all these sorrows is the loss of our friends and the band of our relatives and kinsfolk. Neither son nor brother, father nor uncle have we, but an only daughter, almost destitute of everything valued in this life, an aged mother, her sister and their brother’s son. He is very unfortunate, because of his own disposition and the hatred which the king bears his race. There is no one else of our kin, for in divers ways God has removed them. Some died in their fatherland, and their bodies 64 rest in the foul dust of the earth, to rise again on the day of doom, when the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and all the human race shall come forth from the dark tombs, to give its account; their spirits will be borne away on the arms of angels to reign with Christ, where all pain will cease and envy die and sorrow and lamentations flee before the faces of the saints. But others of them left their country’s shores and trusted themselves to the fields of the sea, and sought the shrines of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and of the many martyrs, virgins and confessors whose number and whose names are known to God.
For these and all such reasons, which we could scarcely recount in a day, even though, as is said, it were when time lengthens in July or August, we are weary of life and find it loathsome to live. Every man who is wanting in his own cause, and trusts not his own counsels, seeks out a faithful friend whose counsels he can trust, since he trusts not his own; he will have such faith in him as to reveal and lay open to him every secret of his heart. What is sweeter, as is said, than to have a friend with whom thou canst speak of everything as with thyself? So because of all these woes which we have related in redundant phrases, it was needful for us to seek out a faithful friend, one in whom we could trust better than in ourselves, who would bear our griefs and misery and 65 poverty, and would feel for us and console us and sustain us with his eloquence and lift us up with the strength of his words. Long have we sought, and we trust that in thee we have found that friend whom we craved and desired. And if God would grant that by the guidance of His angel, as He sent the prophet Habakkuk into the den of lions with food for the prophet Daniel, and Philip, one of the seven deacons, to the eunuch, we could come into those foreign lands where thou dwellest, and couldst hear the living words from thy mouth, how sweet, O my master, would thy eloquence be to my palate, sweeter than honey itself to our lips.
But since by our merits we have not deserved this, but are separated from thee by a long stretch of land and sea and the borders of many provinces, yet because of that trust in thee which we have mentioned above, we would have thee know, Boniface, our brother, that for a long time we have desired, like most of our relatives and friends, and many strangers, to seek Rome, once mistress of the world, and there obtain pardon for our sins, just as many others did and still do; I myself especially had this desire, who am the more advanced in years, and in my life have transgressed and sinned the more. With this wish and purpose of mine, Wale, once my abbess and spiritual mother, was acquainted. But my only daughter 66 was still in the years of her youth, and could not feel the same longing. We know there are many who attack this wish and cry down this service of love, supporting their opinions with such proofs as these: the decrees of the synods command that every one should remain where he has been placed and has made his vows, and should there discharge his vows to God. But we all live with different desires, and the judgments of God are hidden, as the prophet says: “Thy righteousness is like the great mountains: Thy judgments are a great deep.”3 In this case His will and law are utterly concealed from us. Therefore, amidst this uncertainty and darkness, we beg of thee, with our faces cast down in all humility, to be our Aaron, that is a mount of courage, to support us by the strength of thy intercession, and from the burning censer of thy prayers to make the incense rise before the sight of God, and to let the lifting up of thy hands be set forth as an evening sacrifice. For truly we trust in the Lord and beseech His clemency, that in answer to the entreaties from thy mouth and thy fruitful prayers, He may show us through thee, whatsoever He judges right and useful for us, whether to live in our native land or to go hence on our pilgrimage. Likewise we beg thee deign to send us thy answer across the sea, 67 and reply to what we have set down on these tablets, in our rustic and unpolished style. Little faith have we in those who glory in appearance and not in heart, but all in thy loyalty and devotion to God and love of thy neighbour.
The brother to whom we referred above, though we named him not, our friend and kinsman Denewald, if God decree that he should turn his course to those lands and to that mission where thou dwellest, do thou receive in love and kindness, and with thy blessing and favour, guide him, if it is his wish to go, to the venerable brother Bertheri, priest and confessor, who has long dwelt in that mission.
Farewell, brother in the spirit, faithful and beloved with a sincere and pure affection. Mayst thou attain all prosperity in the dear Lord. A friend is long sought, scarcely found, and hard to keep. Pray in our behalf, that bitter faults and transgressions may not work us harm.
1 Matt. vii. 25-27.
2 Sap. vi. 7.
3 Ps. xxxv. 7.
Boniface replies to Bugga, who has asked his advice about going abroad. He promises to send later the passages for which she has asked, and thanks her for her gifts. About 725 (?).
To the lady Bugga, abbess, dearest friend and sister, in the love of Christ to be placed before all others of her sex, Boniface, a poor and unworthy bishop, sends wishes for eternal salvation in Christ.
Be it known to thee, my dearest sister, that as to the advice for which thou didst ask my unworthy self, I cannot presume either to forbid or to urge strongly upon thee a journey abroad. But I shall put the case as I see it. If to seek quiet and contemplation of the Lord thou hast put aside the anxiety which thou didst feel about the servants and the handmaidens of God and the monastic life, why shouldst thou now submit, with toil and wearing anxiety, to the words and wishes of unworthy men? It seems to me better that if, because of the world thou canst not find in thy native land the freedom of a quiet mind, thou shouldst, provided thou hast the will and 69 power, seek liberty for contemplation by going abroad, just as did our sister Wiethburga.1 She has told me in her letters that she has found by the shrine of Saint Peter such quiet of life, as for a long time she has sought and desired. As regards thy wish — for I wrote to her about thee — she bade me have thee wait until the wars and dangers threatening from the Saracens, which have lately manifested themselves in Italy, shall have ceased, and until she herself shall send you, God willing, a letter of invitation; and this I think myself to be the best plan. And so thou shouldst prepare the necessaries for the journey and accept her advice, and afterwards do what the goodness of God shall enjoin.
Concerning the copy of the passages, which thou didst request of me, thou must pardon my sinful neglect, for, owing to pressing work and continuous travelling, I have not yet completed what thou didst ask for; but when I have it finished I shall be sure to have it sent to thee.
I thank thee for the gifts and garments which thou hast sent, and pray the Omnipotent God to grant thee an eternal reward with the angels and archangels in the heights of heaven. So I beseech thee in God’s name, 70 my dearest sister, nay, mother and sweet lady, to pray for me constantly, because for my sins I am worn out by tribulations and disturbed much more by anxiety and mental care than by bodily toil. Be assured that the old confidence between us never fails. Farewell in Christ.
1 The name given in the text is retained, but the person is doubtless the same as the Wethburg mentioned above in Letter VII.