Alcuin of York’s (c.735-804) Eclogue to his Cell

Today, my thoughts were turned toward Alcuin’s verse, which I had first read in high school at Latin camp, when two very dear friends and mentors of mine, with whom I have worked for the last several years, left the office for the last time today, having packed up their research library and sent it to California.  AT and EA, this is for you.  I am going to miss you terribly. +N+


O mea cella, mihi habitate dulcis, amata,
Semper in aeternum, o mea cella, vale.
Utique te cingit ramis resonantibus arbos,
Silvula florigeris semper onusta comis.
Prata salutiferis florebunt omnia et herbis,
Quas medici quaerit dextra salutis ope.
Flumina te cingunt florentibus undique ripis,
Retia piscator qua sua tendit ovans.
Pomiferis redolent ramis tua claustra per hortos,
Lilia cum rosulis candida, mixta rubris.
Omne genus volucrum matutinas personat odas,
Atque creatorem laudat in ore Deum.
In te personuit quondam vox alma magistri,
Quae sacro sophiae tradidit ore libros.
In te temporibus certis laus sancta tonantis
Pacificis sonuit vocibus atque animis.
Te, mea cella, modo lacrimosis plango camenis,
Atque gemens casus pectore plango tuos,
Tu subito quoniam fugisti carmina vatum,
Atque ignota manus te modo tota tenet.
Te modo nec Flaccus nec vatis Homerus habebit,
Nec pueri musas per tua tecta canunt.
Vertitur omne decus saecli sic namque repente,
Omnia mutantur ordinibus variis.
Nil manet aeternum, nihil immutabile vere est.
Obscurat sacrum nox tenebrosa diem.
Decutit et flores subito hiems frigida pulcros,
Perturbat placidum et tristior aura mare.
Qua campis cervos agitabat sacra juventus,
Incumbit fessus nunc baculo senior.
Nos miseri, cur te fugitivum, mundus, amamus?
Tu fugis a nobis semper ubique ruens.
Tu fugiens fugias, Christum nos semper amemus,
Semper amor teneat pectora nostra Dei.
Ille pios famulos diro defendat ab hoste,
Ad caelum rapiens pectora nostra, suos;
Pectore quem pariter toto laudemus, amemus;
Nostra est ille pius gloria, vita, salus.1


My cell, my dearly lovely dwelling, farewell for ever, my cell. The trees stand all round you with their murmuring branches, a copse forever laden with flower-bearing leaves. All your fields will bloom with health-bringing herbs, which the hand of the physician plucks to cure the sick. Streams with blossoming banks gird you round, and there the cheerful angler stretches his nets. Thy cloisters smell of apple-trees in the gardens, and white lilies mingle with little red roses. Every kind of bird strikes up his matins song and by his singing praises God who made him. Once the kind voice of the master was heard in you, reading the holy books with devout lips. In you from time to time the holy praise of the Almighty rose from peaceful voices and hearts. My cell, I weep for you now in tearful songs, and I groan as I bewail my misfortune; for you have suddenly fled from the poets’ songs and an unknown hand now possesses you. No longer now will Flaccus or the poet Homer or the youths come and sing under your roof. Thus suddenly does all the beauty of the earth come to an end, and all things are swept away one after another; nothing lasts for ever, nothing indeed is immutable. Dark night overwhelms even a holy day. Cold winter swiftly cuts off the beautiful flowers and a most bitter wind ruffles the calm sea. The devoted youth who once chased Stags across the fields now leans on a stick, a tired old man. Wretched that we are, why do we love you, O world, as you flee from us? You flee from us, falling all the time and on every side. Keep on fleeing if you wish. Let us love Christ always and let the love of God possess our hearts for ever. May he defend His faithful servants from the dread enemy and snatch our souls away to heaven. Let us praise and love him equally with our whole heart; in his mercy he is our glory, our life, and our salvation.2


 

1Latin text from the Medieval Latin Translation Blog (which also includes an audio recording of Alcuin’s Latin).
2English translation from the UC Davis Alcuin page.