Jacopone da Todi
The Blessed Jacopone da Todi O.F.M. (Todi ca. 1230 – Collazzone 1306), also known as Fra Jacopone, was an Italian mystic of the Catholic Church and poet, born in Umbria in the 13th century. He wrote several lauds (songs in praise of the Lord) in Italian.
He was an early pioneer in Italian theatre, being one of the earliest scholars who dramatized Gospel subjects. He is considered to be the greatest Italian poet before Dante Alighieri. His major shrine is the Church of San Fortunato in Perugia, Italy.
- Now, a new creature, I in Christ am born,
The old man stripped away; -- I am new-made;
And mounting in me, like the sun at morn,
Love breaks my heart, even as a broken blade:
Christ, First and Only Fair, from me hath shorn
My will, my wits, and all that in me stayed,
I in His arms am laid,
I cry and call --
O Thou my All,
O let me die of Love!
- From All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time, by Robert Ellsberg
- From "Jacopone da Todi: Lauds (Classics of Western Spirituality)", Translated by Serge and Elizabeth Hughes
- O Love, divine Love, why do You lay siege to me?
In a frenzy of love for me, You find no rest.
From five sides You move against me:
Hearing, sight, taste, touch, and scent.
To come out is to be caught; I cannot hide from You.
If I come out through sight I see Love
Painted in every form and color,
Inviting me to come to You, to dwell in You.
If I leave through the door of hearing,
What I hear points only to You, Lord;
I cannot escape Love through this gage.
If I come out through taste, every flavor proclaims:
"Love, divine Love, hungering Love!
You have caught me on Your hook, for you want to reign in me."
If I leave through the door of scent
I sense You in all creation; You have caught me
And wounded me through that fragrance.
If I come out through the sense of touch
I find Your lineaments in every creature;
To try to flee from You is madness.
- As air becomes the medium for light when the sun rises,
And as wax melts from the heat of fire,
So the soul drawn to that light is resplendent,
Feels self melt away,
Its will and actions no longer its own.
So clear is the imprint of God
That the soul, conquered, is conqueror;
Annihilated, it lives in triumph. What happens to the drop of wine
That you pour into the sea?
Does it remain itself, unchanged?
It is as if it never existed.
So it is with the soul: Love drinks it in,
It is united with Truth,
Its old nature fades away,
It is no longer master of itself.
- The soul wills and yet does not will:
Its will belongs to Another.
It has eyes only for this beauty;
It no longer seeks to possess, as was its wont --
It lacks the strength to possess such sweetness.
The base of this highest of peaks
Is founded on nichil [nothing],
Shaped nothingness, made one with the Lord.
- Love, infusing with light all who share Your splendor,
You teach us the true light
Is not to be found in the light of this world.
Light that enlightens, light that teaches,
He who is not illumined by You
Does not reach the fullness of love.
Love, You give light
To the intellect in darkness
And illumine the Object of love. Love, Your ardor,
Which enflames the heart,
Unites it with the Incarnate One.
- Love, where did You enter the heart unseen?
Lovable Love, joyful Love, unthinkable Love,
In Your plenitude You lie far beyond the reach of reason.
Love, jocund and joyous,
Divine fire, You do not stint
Of your endlessly beautiful riches
- In losing all, the soul has risen
To the pinnacle of the measureless;
Because it has renounced all
That is not divine,
It now holds in its grasp
The unimaginable Good
In all its abundance,
A loss and a gain impossible to describe.
- To lose and to hold tightly,
To love and take delight in,
To gaze upon and contemplate,
To possess utterly,
To float in that immensity
And to rest therein --
That is the work of unceasing exchange
Of charity and truth.
- There is no other action at those heights;
What the questing soul once was it has ceased to be.
Neither heat nor fiery love
Nor suffering has place here.
This is not light as the soul has imagined it.
All it had sought it must now forget,
And pass on to a new world,
Beyond its powers of perception.
- Love beyond all telling,
Goodness beyond imagining,
Light of infinite intensity
Glows in my heart.
- Light beyond metaphor,
Why did You deign to come into this darkness?
Your light does not illumine those who think they see You
And believe they sound Your depths.
Night, I know now, is day,
Virtue no more to be found.
He who witnesses Your splendor
Can never describe it.
- I once thought that reason
Had led me to You,
And that through feeling
I sensed Your presence,
Caught a glimpse of
You in similitudes,
Knew You in Your perfection.
I know now that I was wrong,
That that truth was flawed.
- On achieving their desired end
Human powers cease to function,
And the soul sees that what it thought was right
Was wrong. A new exchange occurs
At that point where all light disappears;
A new and unsought state is needed:
The soul has
what it did not love,
And is stripped of all it possessed, no matter how dear.
- In God the spiritual faculties
Come to their desired end,
Lose all sense of self and self-consciousness,
And are swept into infinity.
The soul, made new again,
Marveling to find itself
In that immensity, drowns.
How this comes about it does not know.
Quotes about Jacopone da Todi
- One of the greatest and most interesting Italian mystical poets: Jacopone da Todi, the typical singer of the Franciscan movement, the first writer of philosophic religious poetry, and perhaps the most picturesque figure in the history of early Italian literature...this vigorous missionary and subtle philosopher: this poet, by turns crude satirist, ardent lover, and profound contemplative, who can sink to the level of the popular hymnal and rise above that of St. John of the Cross...a hard and avaricious lawyer, converted in middle life by crushing domestic sorrow, who renounces the world, accepts Franciscan poverty, in its most drastic sense, and becomes like brother Juniper a "fool for Christ"...A rich and complete human experience, a fully-developed physical, emotional and intellectual life, was the foundation from which Jacopone climbed up to those heights where he had communion with the Eternal Order and satisfied at last his craving for perfection. Thither he carried a warmth of human feeling, a passionate energy, a romantic fervour, which represent the spiritualization of qualities developed not in the cloister but in the world.
- Evelyn Underhill (1919) Jacopone Da Todi, Poet and Mystic--1228-1306: A Spiritual Biography